The world is finally getting back on its feet with the pandemic-hit two years of this decade to be relegated into history.
While airlines, airports and hotels struggled to get businesses back on track due to staff shortages, average people have spared no moments to travel across the world sans restrictions, masks and PCR tests, which have been confirmed by the figures released by IATA and UN World Trade Organization.
But in a subtle warning, the World Health Organization said that the Eastern Mediterranean Region has reported almost 23 million cases and almost 350,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The coming months will be crucial as football fans from all over the world will come to the region during winter, which is also branded as the season of flu.
“While public health and social measures have been reduced, Covid-19 still poses a threat to us all. People are still being infected and dying. In the past week alone, more than 80,000 people were infected and more than 600 died of Covid-19 in our region, and over 5.4 million new cases and 15,000 deaths were reported globally.”
The Sultanate of Oman has eased all restrictions linked to Covid-19 and wearing masks or maintaining social distance is no longer mandatory. At the same time, in the neighbouring UAE, wearing a mask is mandatory in public transport and malls.
India has made masks mandatory on all international and domestic flights.
“This pandemic is not over, and Covid-19 is not going away. We are going to have to learn to live with this virus, but this does not mean ignoring those measures that can protect us and our loved ones,” the WHO has said.
Speaking to the Observer, Mohammed al Balushi, a HR executive, said, “We are still seeing people struggling with cough, fever and throat issues. It is difficult to make out whether they have Covid or not as testing is hardly done these days. As a precautionary measure, we should continue to wear them especially in crowded places.”
A senior health official at a MoH clinic said, “It is better to avoid risks than staying overconfident. We suggest all our patients follow basic Covid-era measures like using hand sanitisers and wearing masks in crowded and indoor areas, even if not always.”
WHO called on countries to maintain and continue to strengthen their surveillance efforts, including testing and sequencing to monitor the impact of the virus in terms of transmission, hospitalisation, death and vaccine effectiveness.
The WHO director for the region urged everyone to continue following public health and social measures and to make sure that they get fully vaccinated and boosted when presented with a Covid-19 vaccine.
“This is particularly important if you are above 60 years of age or vulnerable because of a pre-existing medical condition. Vaccines save lives and protect health systems from being overburdened. They allowed us to reopen societies and our economies without placing anyone at increased risk.”
The WHO said almost 46 per cent of people in the region are fully vaccinated, with over 790 million doses administered. While the vaccine does not fully protect from Covid-19, it is effective at preventing severe forms of illness and deaths.