Covid-19 curve moving upward

Muscat: Despite the precautionary measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, the number of cases continues to rise in the Sultanate.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Sultanate stood at 1,019, including 23 hospital inpatients. of the total cases reported so far, 348 are Omanis and 635 expatriates, said Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Health at the third press conference the Supreme Committee on Covid-19.

This was stated by Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Health, at the third media teleconference of the Supreme Committee on COVID-19, which was also attended by Shaikh Abdullah bin Nasser al Bakri, Minister of Manpower; Ahmed bin Hassan al Dheeb, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry; Tahir bin Salim al Amri, Executive President, Central Bank of Oman and Qais bin Mohammed al Yousuf, Chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI).

The minister of health pointed out that according to an epidemiological curve designed by the ministry, the number of cases could reach 1,500 a day during the peak of the outbreak of whom 500 will require hospitalisation and 150 will need intensive care.

The curve has been moving upward yet slowly which enabled us to prepare our healthcare institutions, the minister said, adding that the Royal Hospital had a capacity of 60 ICU beds which is increased to 160. The cost of treatment for a coronavirus patient in intensive care exceeds RO 1,000 a day. Lab testing cost ranges between RO 20 to RO 30 depending on the type of test kits, medical staff and testing devices.

The minister added that the Sultanate has flown 16 flights to China bringing in medical supplies, and we expect more testing kits to arrive within 10 days. The devices and the lab staff are available at all the laboratories across the Sultanate with the sole exception of Musandam Governorate for which a device was made available and will be installed shortly.

COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION

Twelve confirmed COVID-19 cases resulting from community transmission were reported in the Wilayat of Jaalan Bani Bu Ali prompting complete isolation of commercial market by the authorities concerned in order to contain the spread of the virus to other places, the minister said.

The plasma extraction and transfusion process for some coronavirus patients was performed in cooperation the Central Blood Bank and the Royal Hospital and the result of the therapy will be clear in the coming days, the minister said.

VACCINES

Dr Al Saeedi said that according to the existing data a vaccine for coronavirus is not expected to be available before 9 to 12 months from now because producing a vaccine is a complicated process even for large pharmaceutical firms, and even if they succeed to develop a vaccine during this time will constitute a precedent.

JOB SECURITY FUND

Shaikh Abdullah bin Nasser al Bakri, Minister of Manpower, said the Job Security Fund is currently under foundation and the contribution of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik has been deposited in the fund in addition to other contributions. The fund, to be headquartered at the Public Authority for Social Insurance, will benefit laid-out employees in the private sector.

Employers and representatives of trade unions are attempting to reach an agreement on a number of procedures and in the event of no agreement they will refer to the committee formed by the Council of Ministers to devise the best method which will be binding on both employers and workers.

Companies which are affected either fully or partially are required to provide a proof and based on that proof the committee is going to take suitable decisions, the minister said.

Al Bakri said there is coordination between the authorities concerned with countries on deportation of workers, and required procedures for their deportation will be taken once an agreement is reached. The government is constantly working on deportation of illegal workers.

The construction sector which employs more than 40 per cent of total expat workforce has not been affected by the crisis, the minister said, affirming that there are inspections and awareness campaigns by relevant authorities with regard to the working environment and the workers’ conditions. Besides, the Ministry of Manpower constantly issues instructions to workers in several languages, he said.

FACILITATION PROCESS

Qais bin Mohammed al Yousuf, Chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), affirmed that the facilitation package issued by the Supreme Committee on Wednesday responds well to the aspirations and requirements of the private sector. He added that the OCCI has taken some procedures including contributing to the Job Security Fund.

Tahir bin Salim al Amri, Executive President, Central Bank of Oman (CBO), said the banking sector has been affected by falling oil prices confirming that the sector continues to bear the brunt of the coronavirus crisis. He added that the reserves and capitals of the banks and financing firms are good.

Al Amri pointed out to big challenges with lending in the commercial sector but there is a large cooperation between all relevant authorities. The CBO is holding discussions with the commercial banks and the financing companies to find products which can benefit borrowers.

Al Amri noted that the lowering of the interest rate was among a set of measures proposed for the banking sector so that it can benefit from the liquidity provided. This liquidity is available to be utilised for lending and the interest rate in the Sultanate is fixed but it goes up or down depending on several factors.

Ahmed bin Hassan al Dheeb, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, said that the government is currently seeking to avoid shutting down certain economic institutions and has laid down precautionary measures to be followed by these institutions as the falling oil prices and the COVID-19 crisis have affected the Sultanate’s economy, but the government has taken some measures to reduce the losses.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is seeking to reduce the burden falling on the commercial stores with a set of mechanisms discussed in this regard, and will be handed over to the Supreme Committee. These mechanisms are mainly aimed to support the owners of small and med-sized enterprises.

“We can neither predict nor provide figures of the scale of the loss incurred by the national economy, but we say that the losses will be small thanks to the huge cooperation between the government and the community”, Al Dheeb said, affirming that the ministry has managed to open direct shipping lines with the ports of the exporting countries and we have utilised Port Sultan Qaboos for direct import. – ONA

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