Muscat – H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Sa’eedi, Minister of Health, stated on Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic is still here and hoped that another lockdown, movement ban or closure will not be necessary in Oman. He also stressed that vaccination is not sufficient protection against the virus.
Addressing a press conference, H E Dr Sa’eedi said, “It seems the pandemic is here to stay. The current situation in Oman is reassuring, but the virus has not disappeared and there are reports of new variants, especially in European countries. We have been through difficult times and we do not want to go back to where we were. We still need to wear masks, maintain physical distance and follow hand hygiene.”
The minister said that he continues to receive news of people hugging and shaking hands at funerals and other occasions. “We hope we don’t have to close down or impose a movement ban again. Imams in mosques should call on worshipers to maintain physical distance and take precautionary measures,” he added.
H E Dr Sa’eedi informed that failure in observing social distancing in mosques is a concern. “It is unfortunate that there is no staff in mosques to ensure that everyone who enters is vaccinated. This is the responsibility of everyone. None of us will be safe until all of us are safe.”
He stressed that the ban on holding events is still in effect, and the concerned regulatory authorities must adopt necessary measures to ensure that the Supreme Committee’s guidelines are followed.
H E Dr Sa’eedi urged everyone to continue to adhere to the precautionary measures and those over 65 years – in particular cancer patients, organ transplant patients, AIDS patients and those receiving immunosuppressive drugs – to take the third dose of vaccine if it has been six months since the last shot.
On COVID-19 passports, H E Dr Sa’eedi said, “There is no consensus on issuing health passports for citizens of Gulf countries.”
He clarified that currently there is no intention of closing airports or stopping flights from any destination. On PCR tests, he informed that Oman has submitted a request to exempt citizens of GCC countries from the test. “No decision has been taken yet. The rates for PCR tests in Oman are cheap compared to many countries. The Ministry of Health is trying to reduce prices further,” he said.
The ministry announced eight new COVID-19 cases on Monday, taking Oman’s total to 304,437 cases. No deaths were reported in a 24-hour period on Monday, keeping the death count at 4,113.
Action against those who violate vaccination rule
Authorities will soon announce measures against those who violate the rule restricting entry of unvaccinated individuals in government and commercial institutions, according to H E Dr Sa’eedi.
“A decision will be issued soon on the penalties to be imposed on anyone who enters government and commercial institutions without taking the vaccine. The decisions of the Supreme Committee are still valid for those coming to the sultanate – two doses of vaccine, PCR tests before leaving the country of origin or upon arrival in Oman,” he elaborated.
Addressing the press conference with H E Dr Sa’eedi on Monday, Brig Mohammed bin Nasser al Kindi, Director-General of Operations, said Royal Oman Police continues to ensure implementation of Supreme Committee’s decisions. “We confirm the presence of police at all locations to monitor compliance with the decisions. Our hotline (1099) is open 24 hours to report any violations,” he said.
Also speaking at the press meet, Dr Amal al Maani, senior consultant in pediatric infectious diseases and infection prevention and control at the Ministry of Health, informed that there is an increase in incidence of influenza this year.
“We have noticed a steady increase in influenza cases, especially Influenza A. There have been outbreaks of up to 100 individuals. We are monitoring deaths due to it as well,” Dr Amal said.
She attributed the incidence likely due to lapses in observing preventive measures like wearing masks this year.