Traffic congestion on UAE-Oman border
File picture shows traffic congestion on the UAE-Oman border towards Al Ain city. Image Credit: Instagram/ Courtesy:@Mohyok94

Dubai: Oman will reopen its land, sea and air borders from September 1 while adhering to the controls imposed by the Supreme Committee, the Sultanate’s news agency ONA reported.

Speaking at the Supreme Committee press conference, Dr. Saif Al Abri, Director General of Disease Control at the Ministry of Health, announced that Oman will reopen its land, sea and air borders next month, according to the conditions set by the Supreme Committee.

Government staff to return to work

However, the reopening of social, economic and cultural activities is being studied and a decision will be made next week, Dr. Saif stated, adding that all government sector offices and institutions will return to work at 100 per cent capacity starting from September 1.

COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for visa renewal

The Supreme Committee also announced that taking the vaccine will be mandatory for expatriates to renew their visas.

Dr. Saif Al Abri said expats will have to take at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in order to renew their visas. “At least one dose of vaccine will be mandatory for expats to renew residency visas,” he said, adding that the administered vaccines must be approved in the Sultanate.

“From October 1, obtaining two doses will be mandatory for citizens and residents, with the continuation of all precautionary measures of physical distancing and wearing masks,” he noted.

Visas issued since January 2021 to be extended

Al Abri clarified that residents currently outside Oman, who have taken a single dose of a vaccine not approved for use in Oman, should not expect to get the second dose in the Sultanate since it will not be available.

The committee also revealed that all visas issued to expats since the beginning of January 2021 will be extended until the end of the year.

Major General Abdullah Bin Ali Al Harthy, Assistant Inspector General of Police and Customs for Operations, said that no extra fees will be imposed for the extension. “All visas issued since the beginning of the year will be extended until the end of the year, and no additional fees will be imposed for the extension."

According to Al Harthy, expat residents who are stranded outside the country “can extend their visas for additional periods through the Royal Oman Police system.

Visas to be issued

Al Harthy made it clear that the Royal Oman Police will start issuing all new visas soon. “Issuing visas will return to the previous situation, with the same procedures and for all categories. However, precautionary procedures for entering the Sultanate will be applied,” he highlighted.

For his part, Dr. Ahmed Al Saidi, Minister of Health, said there are discussions to exempt Gulf citizens from the PCR tests, “for those who received two doses of the vaccine approved in these countries, provided that the time period for the last dose exceeded two weeks.

According to the minister of health, Oman has reserved over 8,570,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far.

“We decided to book additional doses for those aged six and over after some countries decided to go ahead with vaccination for this age group," he said.

"There has been a significant decrease in the number of patients hospitalised and in intensive care. Precautionary measures must be followed despite the high rate of vaccination. The total doses Oman has received so far exceed 3,950,000. However, Dhofar governorate has the highest number of inpatients in intensive care compared to other hospitals across Oman," the minister added.

"Oman's health sector will seek the cooperation of all government and private health institutions to deal with delayed appointments, operations or other health issues. Some programmes, like the immunisation of children, have not been affected by COVID-19. Over 84 per cent of people with chronic diseases had timely access to medication," Al Saidi stated.

Speaking about a third booster dose, the minister said: “The idea of a third dose, scientifically, is premature. The World Health Organisation has not recommended a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine."

He made it clear that Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinovac, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm and Covishield Astrazeneca are the eight vaccines approved for use in Oman.

"No Omani citizen who is abroad and has not been vaccinated will be prevented from returning to Oman, provided that precautionary measures are followed," the minister clarified.

Possible fake tests

"Even with new changes to the rules, Oman reserves the right to ask for COVID-19 tests on arrival into the Sultanate. There has been an uproar about these tests to be taken before arrival, on arrival and after quarantine, but unfortunately, many tests carried out globally may be fake," Al Saidi further said.

Also speaking during the conference was Minister of Education, Dr. Madiha Al Shaibaniyah.

He said that the Ministry of Education has given schools and educational directorates the necessary authority to find various alternatives for students to continue their education in the weeks when they are at home. School buses are to operate at 50 per cent capacity.

Dr. Mohammed Al Maamari, Undersecretary of Ministry of Religious and Endowment Affairs (MERA) said during the conference that the committee will issue a decision on restarting Friday prayers during its meeting next week.

“Society has proven its ability to positively adapt in applying precautionary measures in mosques, and places of worship, according to the guiding guide, and thanks to the efforts of those in charge, the Ministry has not recorded anything to the contrary,” he added.