With expectations high that Oman will lift the entry ban soon, expatriates are making beelines at vaccination centres in their home countries in anticipation that a certificate will be made mandatory for travel clearance.
At the same time, many of the stranded expatriate workers of different South Asian nations are opting to travel to a third country that is not in the list of travel ban to quarantine there and return to their jobs in Oman.
Some of the travel agencies confirmed to Observer that scores of resident card holders are ready to spend 14 days of quarantine in other countries including Qatar which are not in the entry ban list before flying into Oman.
“Those who do not want to wait till the lifting of the entry ban, this is a feasible option. We are getting good response to our packages because there are a lot of people who want to return as their jobs are at risk either because their work permits are expiring or are being warned by their companies to resume work at the earliest,” said Anees Ahmed, an executive with a travel agency in the South Indian state of Kerala.
Based on the decision made by the Supreme Committee, institutional quarantine applies to all non-Omani arrivals into the Sultanate.
For those who travel via Qatar, there are packages that start from around RO 600. This includes flight charges, three-star hotel stay, travel insurance and three-time meals.
“Passengers who are aged 12 years and those who have received two doses of vaccines that are approved by WHO and Qatar Ministry of Public Health will be allowed to travel”, says a note from a travel agency.
Tippu Bowmik, a Bangladeshi national, said in a Whatsapp message that he has not yet received the vaccine as his country was giving priorities to those expatriate workers who are returning to countries which have lifted the travel ban.
“We have already registered for the vaccination. Since Oman has not yet lifted the entry ban, we have been placed in the waiting list. Moreover, we have to confirm that we get vaccines that are approved by the Sultanate,” said Bowmik, who is associated with a transport industry in Oman.
Some of the vaccines like Covaxin are not approved by the World Health Organisation and GCC and some other countries have denied entry to expatriates who got these jabs.
In India, stranded expatriates are thronging primary health centres, in some cases with air tickets, to get vaccinated despite the fact that advance online registration is mandatory for vaccination.
Most of them are apprehensive about losing their jobs if they do not return anytime soon.
Joseph Mathew, a chef at a hotel in Oman, said he was trying to get vaccinated as early as possible to avoid any kind of a delay in his travel back to Oman.
“Like some other countries, if Oman too makes vaccination mandatory for entry, it should not come as a hindrance in our return,” he said.
In India, a new order issued by the government said those going abroad would now get vaccination certificates issued by the Health and Family Welfare Department, wherein the passport number would be recorded.
Students and others going abroad for higher studies or jobs have already been given priority in the categories selected for vaccination by the government.