Sunday, September 19
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Stranded expats celebrate travel ban end starting Sept 1

24 Aug 2021 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

Following the decision by the Supreme Committee to lift the travel ban on all countries, many residents of Oman who are stranded outside the sultanate shared their excitement over borders opening from September 1. They described the decision as a big relief after being away for months.

On Monday, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced the end of the travel ban from Sudan, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, India, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Libya, Argentina and Colombia.

Expatriates who Muscat Daily spoke with said the decision was much awaited and that they can’t wait to return to Oman. 

Tanzanian resident Maryam Abdullah has been stranded in Dar es Salaam for close to five months. Her family has been split between Oman and Tanzania since April. “I travelled home to Tanzania to visit my mother five months ago. Oman imposed the travel ban a few days after I landed here. I left my two children with their father and I am desperate to get back home to Muscat. The wait has been too long for me; now I’m counting the days to return,” Maryam said.

British national Katherine Hinchcliffe, a secondary teacher of Knowledge Gate International School – Al Hail, flew from the UK to Bahrain because of the 14-day rule. The travel restrictions also applied to passengers from any other country if they passed through any of the 21 banned countries 14 days prior to the request to enter the sultanate.

“I am in Bahrain patiently waiting to travel to Oman. I am so excited to start teaching on September 5. The school has been fantastic and the communication has calmed my nerves in the midst of the pandemic,” she said.

“It has been an eventful and nervous time waiting for the news on the border opening, but I feel relieved that I am reaching before the school opens so that I can settle down before welcoming the pupils face-to-face. Only a few more days to go!” 

Amit Sijaria, a drilling engineer with Petroleum Development Oman, was excited when he set off on annual vacation during the Eid holidays. He was hopeful of travel restrictions easing in August. “But as time passed and no news came in – I was half-heartedly looking at options to return via other countries. I am not comfortable travelling overseas with children during the pandemic.”

The announcement on Monday, August 23 – his son’s birthday – “came like an oasis in the desert”. At this point of time, Sijaria said, he couldn’t have asked for or prayed for anything better. “I am looking forward to meet a new Oman, free from COVID-19 troubles.” 

Adnan Rasool, who has been stuck in Pakistan, described the decision to remove his country from the banned list and also do away with mandatory quarantine as a “welcome move”.

Rasool has been running his travel ticketing business remotely, but just about managing. “It was difficult for me. The removal of the mandatory quarantine requirement will certainly help us save a lot of money and time,” he said.

According to the new decision, fully vaccinated passengers with a negative PCR test result will be exempted from quarantine. Those without PCR negative certificates can test at Oman airports but must be in quarantine till they get the negative result.

Following CAA’s announcement on Monday, Oman resident Bhanu Priya’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing in Delhi. “My friend called to inform about Oman lifting the ban and we jumped with joy. We will now be able to go back home. We have been waiting for this news for the last four months and finally it’s announced. My child was dancing with joy. Thank you Oman!”

Those arriving in Oman are required to present a COVID-19 vaccine certificate containing QR code stating that they have received two doses or a single dose of any vaccine approved in Oman. 

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