MUSCAT: The great challenge in terms of public health and national economy in front of His Majesty Haitham bin Tarek defenitely was the outbreak of the pandemic soon after His Majesty took over.
The slew of initiatives that the Supreme Committee designated to device strategies against Covid-19 took under his guidance in order to contain it has already recognised by the global agencies in the nearly two years of the journey.
The first COVID-19 case in Oman was reported on 24 February 2020 from two citizens who travelled to an affected country returned to the Sultanate.
Despite the various precautions taken by the Ministry of Health, the Royal Oman Police and other agencies under the Supreme Committee to contain the same, the total number of cases registered in the sultanate by August 2020 stood at 300,914, of which 289,450 have recovered and 4,020 have died.
Although the cases were reported mostly among the expatriates, by July 2020, the majority of the cases and deaths had occurred among the citizens as well.
The SUPREME COMMITTEE:
The first and foremost decision made by the farsighted government was to form an apex body to strategies the national drive against the virus which was later declared 'pandemic' by the World Health Organization (WHO) under the chairmanship of Sayyid Hamoud bin Faisal al Busaidi, Minister of Interior. It was also decided that the Supreme Committee will be the sole authority tasked with tackling developments resulting from coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic thereon.
WORLD MOVES INTO LOCKDOWN:
As the world slowly moved to lockdown, Oman too was put under lockdown on
10 April, when the entire country was in a closed state until 22 April. This lock down was extended twice, with the lockdown being lifted on 29 May, 2020.
A plethora of national level lockdowns and movement bans have since been imposed over the course of the pandemic toll today.
TESTS & TREATMENT:
As per directives issued by His Majesty, COVID-19 tests and treatment were initially made free for all communities of the Sultanate. However, tests and treatment of expatriates were made the responsibility of their respective sponsors and violating sponsors were held liable to pay the charges incurred.
Oman devised various strategies against the pandemic under warfoot. As many as 2,367 people were put under quarantine in early March, most of whom were under domestic quarantine while 49 were in institutional quarantine.
The Royal Hospital was asked to stop treatment services provided for routine non-emergency cases until further notice and less emergency surgeries too were suspended. Later, Al Nahda Hospital followed the suit and announced the suspension of all outpatient appointments and surgical appointments until further notice
Also, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) stopped issuing all kinds of visas and the country announced that people on visit or transit or business visa needn't worry about the expiry of their visas and free renewal will be given to those affected by the pandemic.
No legal action will be initiated against them for overstaying in the country.
Several hundreds of Omani students, tourists and business people stuck abroad were airlifted to the Sultanate, thanks to the givernment's prompt response to the situation.
All retail outlets, including shopping malls and supermarkets were directed to install sanitizers as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid 19 by the Ministry of Health.
His Majesty donated RO 10 million for tackling the coronavirus outbreak in the country on 26 March which was a great initiative that evoked nationwide response. In reaction to His Majesty's efforts, corporates and public and private companies started pledging huge sums for the fight against the pandemic.
Oman reported the first death due to Covid 19 on O1 April, who was a 72-year-old Omani citizen in Muscat, and the number of confirmed cases in the country crossed over 200.
Wilayat of Muttrah was considered the 'hotspot' of Covid cases which led to its closure. A sharp increase in the number of cases was reported from Muttrah where many of nationalities lived together in different conditions. As much as 45percent of the total confirmed cases of the country was due to local transmission and Muttrah was isolated from other parts of Muscat from April 1. This was followed by the Wadi Kabir Industrial Area which too reported a surge in cases due to community transmission.
The Supreme Committee ordered to enforce checkpoints on the roads linking the entrances and exits of the sultanate's governorates and the Sultan's Armed Forces (SAF) and Royal Oman Police (ROP) were tasked with the implementation of the same.
SUSPENSION OF EVENTS:
On March 22, the Supreme Committee advised employers to reduce the number of employees present in workplaces in government agencies to not more than 30%, prevented gatherings of all kinds in public places, closed money exchange services with only banks being responsible for those now along with customer services outlets in all public and private institutions and stopped all public gatherings including prayers in mosques.
Some of the commercial activities were allowed to resume by the supreme committee from 28 April. They included vehicle repair and rental shops, stationary stores, and electrical appliances shops among others.
Later on June 10, more commercial activities and services were allowed to reopen as the spread of infection in the wilayat of Muttrah had decreased from 60 per cent to 35 per cent