MUSCAT, MARCH 14 – The Sultanate joined the rest of the world in imposing stringent restrictions from Sunday to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). On Saturday, the GCC health ministers held an emergency meeting through video conferencing and discussed the situation in each country as well as the procedures and emergency plans, including the sharing of data. The Ministry of Health (MoH) on Friday had said the total number of infected in Oman is 20, with the latest case also associated with travel to Iran. His condition is stable.
Royal Hospital, meanwhile, on Saturday refuted rumours that a COVID-19 related death has been reported in the Sultanate. The hospital confirmed the patient concerned is receiving treatment at its Intensive Care Unit (ICU). On Saturday, it was announced that schools and other educational institutions will suspend all classes for a month starting from Sunday (March 15). “The Supreme Committee on COVID-19 has called on families to keep their children at home during this period. The Ministry of Education said the suspension includes the teaching and administrative staff, except for those “employees whose presence is needed in the best interest of the work’’.
The Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) announced that studies at the university will be stopped from Sunday. “Students will be notified of all developments related to study and its requirements through the official means of the university,” SQU said, adding that decision applies only to students. The Ministry of Manpower also suspended the study at technical and vocational colleges and private training institutions. Speaking at the GCC meeting, Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Health, said that Oman has suspended flights to a number of the coronavirus-hit countries and a social distancing programme is being prepared to curb the spread of the disease.
Clarifying on the new visa rules, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said the ban on tourist visas is not applicable to those got the visas before March 15 . The Sultanate has announced that it was restricting entry of travellers from China, South Korea, Italy, Egypt and Iran. The government also decided to stop the entry of cruise ships at three Omani ports (Muscat, Salalah and Khasab), which are used for tourism ships from March 15 for a period of 30 days. All local, regional and international sporting events, conferences, meetings, seminars and tournaments will remain suspended.
The government has also decided to ban sheesha or hookah to customers at all licensed outlets. Muscat Municipality and Dhofar Municipality said they will follow-up with these facilities to ensure that this decision is not violated.