Muscat: Out of the registered six confirmed cases of Novel Coronavirus (COVID – 19) two of them have recovered completely, said the minister of health on Monday.
The Minister of Health, Dr Ahmed Mohammed al Saidi, speaking to the media said it has been five days since any new cases have been reported, “I think it is a good sign.” There is no Omani infected with the virus abroad.
The recovered individuals did not require any medical care according to Dr Al Saidi.
“Most of the cases of this disease in Oman have been mild.” In regard to worries of home quarantine, the minister said, “Of course everyone will be worried, but the Ministry of Health and its partners have provided them with all the instructions – what the individuals need and the family care that is needed to protect themselves from a potential disease.”
The six of the cases were imported he said, “They were individuals who were travelling from countries. All the passengers coming in have been screened at all the airports – Muscat, Suhar and Salalah. There had been concern about transit patients but even that has been sorted.”
Dr Farma al Ajmi explained further, “If the passengers are from non-affected areas the passengers continue the normal routine from the aircraft. If they are from the affected areas we transfer them to the public health clinic where we segregate them again into people with symptoms and people without symptoms. If they do have symptoms then we proceed to conduct clinical and lab investigations. We then transfer them according to the assessment. If they are without any symptoms then we advice them for home isolation, which is what has been happening.”
Currently there are 2,367 people currently under quarantine for COVID – 19, of which 49 are under institutional quarantine.
Oman is at the third level of handling COVID – 19 as all the cases have been imported. “There are five levels,” the minister explained, “The first one was the preparedness and the second one was when we knew that it might come from abroad and now we are in the third level where six cases have been reported and two have recovered completely. The third stage is when someone who comes from abroad infects someone locally and the fifth level is when it begins to spread within the community.”
With the registration of the first confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the Sultanate on 24 February 2020, the epidemic level classification for public health emergency preparedness and response rises to the third category, which is registering imported cases from outside the country. The priorities of this phase are in preventing secondary and community transmissions, in addition to identifying arrivals coming from COVID-19 endemic countries for quarantine. The ministry further strengthened health procedures at all points of entry and implementation of institutional or home quarantine in all the Sultanate Governorates, based on assessment case by case.
“The WHO has not brought in travel measures but we as a country have issued the restriction on travel to certain countries. There are people walking about who are asymptomatic and cannot be detected. So to the question about Omanis who are still in Iran will be brought back as there is liaison with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other Government agencies. His Majesty’s government will not leave anyone out,” he said.
The Ministry of Health in coordination with the Royal Oman Police, and Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance, operators of airports, ports, and ground border crossings worked on suspension of direct air flights from endemic areas and implementing containment measures and infection prevention and control at the borders.
Quarantine has been lifted for the travellers coming from Singapore and Japan but continues to be applied to all travellers coming from China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. Direct flights to China and Iran have been suspended, as well as charter tourism flights from Italy.
“We recommend citizens, residents, if they have symptoms, to avoid markets, mosques and public places. They should also stay away from infected as a precaution.” Answering to Oman Observer’s query on what precaution should be taken by others while going through house quarantine, the minister said, “All the information is given to the individual and the family. They also are given the contact numbers related to whichever governorate they are in. Basically what I would request people to do when they are in quarantine not to go out, not to mix with family. Majority of them do not have the disease and this is a precautionary measure. Again washing hands is the best way to prevent the spread of this disease.”
The minister stressed on the important role of the community in practicing good hygiene. When asked about the availability of masks, the minister said avoiding handshakes are more important than masks and medicines. He also pointed out that children are less likely to be affected and men are more vulnerable to the virus than women, especially smokers. The minister also urged citizens and residents to fight against rumours.
The Ministry of Health had started preparation for COVID-19 response since the announcement of the disease in China. In his statement the minister said the most significant action that were taken by the Sultanate have been developing guidelines and policies on preventing the introduction of the disease in the country as well as on means of dealing with any suspected imported cases. Healthcare professionals were trained on handling the disease, increasing the competencies and preparedness of the health institutions to address epidemics particularly regarding infection control and surveillance. The healthcare workers were provided with personal prevention tools.
Moreover, the electronic epidemiological surveillance system has been updated to monitor the confirmed cases as well the quarantined people, in addition to improving the capacity of the MOH’s Central Public Health Laboratory, equipping it with the necessary diagnostic reagents.
Furthermore, public health proceedings at the various points of entry (air, sea, and land) have been strengthened, as self-notification are applied, symptomatic people are examined, home or institutional quarantine is applied for travelers coming from COVID-19 endemic countries.