Muscat: Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saidi, Minister of Health, member of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, has said that decisions of the Supreme Committee are taken in accordance with epidemiological data and on the basis of established scholarly norms. He added that the decisions place public interest on top of other priorities.
Dr Ahmed pointed out that the Wilayat of Duqm will also be among tourism areas set for closure with effect from this Saturday to July 2, 2020. He explained that the lockdown of Dhofar Governorate means a total shutdown and that none will be allowed entry or exit.
The Minister made the statement on Thursday during the 10th press conference held by the Supreme Committee since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. The press conference saw the participation of Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Futaisi, Minister of Transport (member of the Supreme Committee), Ahmed bin Nasser al Mahrazi, Minister of Tourism, and D Ahmed bin Mohsin al Ghassani, Head of Dhofar Municipality.
Studies indicate that Covid-19’s infection peaks in the first days of a person’s contracting the disease, said the Minister, who advised people who experience the first symptoms to stay at home and resort to health establishments only if their condition escalates.
He added that no confirmed study has so far proved that a person who carries the diseases without showing symptoms cannot transfer the disease to a healthy person. (In other words, any carrier of the disease can transfer it to a healthy person, even if no symptoms appear on this infected person).
Covid-19-related mortality rate in the Sultanate is still very low (0.5 per cent), said the Minister, noting that no country has accurately predicted the peak of the virus so far, because Covid-19 is different from earlier viruses.
Dr. Ahmed said that the number of plasma donors stood at 100 people from among those who recovered, said the Minister, adding that 100 people have been treated and that their condition is improving. New cases of infection registered yesterday stood at 1,067, said the Minister, who confirmed that the total number of people who caught the disease since its outbreak in the Sultanate stood at 19,954. He explained that the number of people tested over the past 24 hours stood at 2,747 from a total number of 129,527 tested persons. As many as 6,623 infected people recovered, while 89 others passed away, said the Minister, noting that 150,000 people known to have mingled with infected persons, since the outbreak of the disease, have been monitored.
Al Saidi urged owners of companies to shoulder their responsibilities in curbing the spread of the disease. He explained that one of the causes of spread of the disease is the lack of compliance, among companies, with quarantine/isolation.
The Minister said that the number of intensive unit beds in the Sultanate stands at 147 beds. The number of beds can be increased, thanks to the support of the government of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik. He noted that the low rate of traffic accidents contributed to a greater rate of reception of infected people in intensive care units. The Minister valued the efforts of the Royal Oman Police in this respect.
Dr Ahmed pointed out that, statistically speaking, a steady increase in number of recovered Covie-19 patients will be observed over the next few days because the Sultanate changed the definition of ‘recovery’ concept in line with norms in other GCC states.
The Minister said that the isolation of most areas of Wilayat of Mattrah will be lifted and that only a limited number of areas in the wilayat will remain locked down.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Dr Ahmed al Futaisi said that countries of the world are ready to outline plans for total recovery of their respective aviation sectors. In the Sultanate, he explained, all necessary terms and protocols for airport operation have been finalized and that air traffic will be resumed in time, said the Minister.
He added that, in case air traffic is resumed, it will be initially restricted to domestic flights and that the resumption of international air traffic will follow (as determined by conditions). The Supreme Committee sees the need to “take its time” before resuming internal air traffic, particularly at a time when the Supreme Committee announced the lockdown of some destinations like Dhofar Governorate and Duqm.
The Minister of Transport reaffirmed that the Supreme Committee gives priority to public safety when considering the resumption of other activities that are banned so far. This is because the panel sees a need for unhurried reopening of activities where social distancing is difficult like mosques, kindergartens and celebration halls.
In his turn, Tourism Minister Ahmed bin Nassir al Mahrazi said that the tourism sector was adversely impacted like other hard-hit sectors, but experience show that this sector can recover fast.
As part of its coordination with the Supreme Committee, the Ministry of Tourism initiated a comprehensive report on expected economic impacts of the pandemic on this sector.
The report, which gave an outline of general indicators, revenues and financial losses, also included recommendations submitted in April, including a package to boost certain sectors, said the Minister. He added that it was agreed with the Ministry of Finance to suspend payment of the value of fees imposed on customer invoices at hotel establishments (4 per cent) till the 21st of August 2020.
The Minister pointed out that many tourism firms had agreed to receive tourist delegations before the Coronavirus outbreak and they had paid the fees of visas and other fees. Therefore, the fees paid to the departments concerned, including the Royal Oman Police, will be substituted as of March 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020, he said.
He added that tourism revenues of Salalah Tourism Season 2019 stood at RO 80 million, said the Minister, who stressed that the health of citizens and residents represents a priority in the government’s policy.
Meanwhile, the Head of Dhofar Municipality, Dr Ahmed al Ghassani, said that the precautionary measures were undertaken gradually, starting by the cancellation of Salalah Tourism Festival, followed by the cancellation of tourism camps at Atteen area and culminated into the Supreme Committee’s decision to impose a 3-week lockdown of Dhofar Governorate.
He called upon all to stick to the instructions of the Ministry of Health and the Supreme Committee. He warned that Dhofar Municipality will impose fines on all offenders who violate the instructions.
In other comments, Dr Saif bin Salim al Abri, Director-General of Disease Control and Surveillance at the Ministry of Health, said that the proportion of those who tested positive to Covid-19 in the Wilayat of Mattrah dropped to 35 per cent, from 60 per cent, and this prompted an easing of the lockdown on the wilaya.
He added that the Japanese medical drug Remdesivir has been added to the treatment protocol in the Sultanate and that this drug proved to have been one of the best drugs in the fight against Coronavirus in the Sultanate.
Dr Saif pointed out that the rate of propagation of the disease in the absence of drugs (known as RO) was quite high in the Sultanate upon the start of the pandemic (crossed the mark of 2), but the RO dropped significantly to less than 1. Unfortunately, the RO again rated higher than the mark of 2 after Eid al Fitr holidays, which is a serious development.
Al Abri pointed out that the periphery of Souq Mattrah (market) and adjoining villages will be opened with effect from next Sunday upon the release of the first batch of commercial activities, but the souq itself will remain closed.
The health isolation in parts of Al Hamria area will continue to be imposed, and so shall the Wadi Kabir industrial area.
The second and third batches of activities in the Wilayat of Mattrah will begin to be opened with effect from Sunday, except outlets in the above-mentioned areas (including Mattrah souq), said al-Abri, noting that the permitted activities will be opened from 7 am to 6 pm. He stressed that commercial activities will not be open in Ruwi market area during the weekend. –ONA