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Cairo: Oman confirmed 256 further cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, taking the country’s total infections to 86,380, Health Minister Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammad Al Saeed said.

Deaths from COVID-19 in Oman have totalled 705, the minister told a press conference.

Overall recoveries from the disease in the sultanate have reached 87,828, according to Dr Al Saeed.

He added that the number of infections in the country have started to decline, but urged for observance of precautions against the potentially fatal illness.

“We still pin hopes on society’s awareness because this is our most effective weapon [against the disease],” Dr Al Saeed said, according to the Omani news agency ONA.

He defended the reopening of economic activities in the country, saying it was gradual and based on precautions. “Life must go on and the economic situation has been affected [by the coronavirus pandemic] all over the world,” he said.

The minister warned that businesses that do not observe health precautions face fines and shutdown.

He cited reports that some employees have taken advantage of their remote work to spend some hours in shopping centres and on beaches.

An Omani state supreme committee in charge of tackling COVID -19 has strictly banned all forms of gatherings and has not scrapped the ban, the minister said.