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Dr. Ahmed Al Saidi, Minister of Health, clarified that the Supreme Committee’s decision to prevent travelers coming from several countries at the beginning of this week was due to positive cases reported from travelers some of which has exceeded 20 per cent. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: The epidemiological situation in Oman is dangerous and worrying, said Dr. Ahmed Al Saidi, Minister of Health on Thursday.

“It is unfortunate that from mid-January until now, the numbers began to escalate and the number of inpatients began to take a dangerous turn. Within a period of less than two months, the number of intensive care patients increased to 70, compared to 20 cases,” the minister added.

Speaking during today’s press conference held by the Supreme Committee in charge of dealing with the control of COVID-19 in Oman, Al Saidi said that the intensive care units have returned to be under constant pressure, and deaths are continuing. “The situation is dangerous and worrying. Everyone must realize and take responsibility and everyone should be aware of the gravity of the situation and help prevent the spread of the epidemic."

No clear vision

He added that many of those placed in institutional quarantine evade compliance with sanitary measures. "Unfortunately, there are those who escape from the institutional quarantine,” he noted.

“There is still no clear vision in the world about what the epidemiological situation will look like in a month or a month and a half. However, the Eastern Mediterranean Region is still witnessing an increase in the number of injuries, while other regions have witnessed stability and perhaps a decrease in injuries,” Al Saidi continued.

He explained that many people have so far relied on social media rumours on vaccines. “We have reserved 200,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “I appeal to all health workers to go to designated centres to take the Covid-19 vaccine”, the minister said.

“Everyone must be reassured of the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Once we expand the vaccination after receiving adequate numbers, we will also distribute it to the private sector. Some people still do not trust the AstraZeneca vaccine and insist on receiving the Pfizer vaccine. Everyone must be reassured that the Sultanate cannot take any step without first making sure of the safety and efficacy of any vaccine and the vaccines are similar with the different manufacturing companies only and the privacy of preserving each medicine,” he stated.

“Closing beaches, parks are less economically harmful than closing shops and major commercial centers. We do not rule out taking additional precautions, if necessary. The continuing escalation of cases will affect appointments, the conduct of operations and the care of other patients”.

Positive cases

He revealed that there is close coordination between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, and there is follow-up, and we will take appropriate decisions at the next meeting of the Supreme Committee.

Al Saidi clarified that the Supreme Committee’s decision to prevent travelers coming from several countries at the beginning of this week was due to positive cases reported from travellers some of which has exceeded 20 per cent.

The minister concluded his remarks saying: “We call on the necessity to adhere to preventive measures against the virus due to the bitterness and difficulty faced by health workers, and that the increase in infected cases will have a negative impact on patients’ appointments”.

Also participating in the press conference were Rashid Al Shamsi, Undersecretary of Ministry of Social Development, Dr. Saif Al Abri, DG Disease Surveillance and Control — Ministry of Health, Dr. Salem Al Tamemi, SQU and Major Mohammed Al Hashmi, Royal Oman Police.

Al Shamsi said that airlines are required to provide a list of travelers coming to the Sultanate to facilitate the institutional quarantine process, based on the decision of the Supreme Committee.

“Everyone who enters the Sultanate through the land, air and sea ports shall register and wear the tracking bracelet, and the second stage begins by heading to the hotel of his choice to stay in the isolation period. Those who have been laid off from work may meet the requirements of the Job Safety Fund, and whoever does not apply to it, we are addressing the Ministry of Labour to discuss the possibility of being covered by the assistance,” Undersecretary of Ministry of Social Development added.

Deadly diseases

For his part, Dr. Salem Al Tamimi said that vaccinations are one of the best medical interventions to get rid of deadly diseases, and they are better than treatment drugs because they are prevention. There are no serious complications that have been reported with recently licensed vaccinations.

“Any vaccine with an efficiency of more than 50 percent is considered acceptable by the World Health Organization and specialist,” Al Tamimi added.

Major Mohammad Al Hashmi explained that the Royal Oman Police has activated an operations center to report all Covid-19 violations and has also activated a toll-free number 1099 to report any violations.

“The fine for violating the bracelets is OMR 300. A partnership between the Royal Oman Police, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development to follow up on the institutional quarantine imposed on people coming to the Sultanate, and there is also an electronic application through which these people are followed up,” Hashmi noted. “We count on society to be careful for its own safety and to cooperate with the police officers and the front line workers and the rest of the authorities to ward off this pandemic," he added.

He said that the decision of the Inspector General of Police and Customs listed penalties for gathering, and any invitation to gathering issued by individuals will be punished by OMR 1500, and every participant in the gathering will be fined OMR 100.

Also speaking during the conference was Dr. Saif Al Abri. He said that an epidemiological investigation was conducted to find out the causes of positive cases to some educational staff in schools, as per our investigation, the first infection was not detected from inside the schools, but rather from the community, as a result of lack of commitment to precautionary measures, and by investigation, it became clear that the positive cases came from outside the schools compound.

Target groups

Al Abri stated that there has been a decrease in the number of elderly people in intensive care units in the Sultanate and that 75 percent of the cases recorded last January are related to travel, and it has now decreased between 20 to 40 percent.

He explained that teachers are among the target groups for vaccination when the vaccine is available in sufficient quantities, and now the main goal for the government is to vaccinate the elderly.

Al Abri said a unified GCC health passport related to Covid-19 is under discussion. “Our plan is to vaccinate 60 percent of the Sultanate’s population, and the main goal currently is to vaccinate 20 per cent for the most target groups and front line health workers,” Al Abri concluded.