Health Minister values continuous support of HM the Sultan to health sector

Muscat: Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Health, Member of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, expressed his deep appreciation for the continuous support of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik to the health sector and departments dealing with the pandemic.

Speaking at the 17th press conference held by the Supreme Committee at the Ministry of Education on Thursday, the minister reiterated his plea to all members of the public to stick to the decisions of the Supreme Committee and precautionary measures it has set for the management of the pandemic so that all could enhance the efforts of the health sector and the ROP to handle the situation. In particular, he said that all segments should refrain from gatherings and to report any violations. “Failure to report a crime is a crime in itself,” said the minister, who described crime reporting as a national duty.

Dr Ahmed pointed out that doctors and other health undergo tremendous stress as they watch young people dying from the disease. He explained that Covid-19 mortality rate in the Sultanate is still within the mark of 1% from total infection cases, “but any such death represents a disaster and great pain that could be limited if we follow proper preventive measures.”

Last week, Covid-19 death rate at Intensive Care Units (ICUs) reached 83% (Mortality rate in cases admitted to ICUs ranges from 75%-85%), said the minister, noting that the percentage of death among men is higher than women and that the disease damages a lot of organs in the body.

Dr Ahmed explained that the increase in infection cases requires recruiting many skilled medical staff to ICUs and hospitals. In this context, he voiced gratitude for the unfailing support lent to the Health Ministry by His Majesty the Sultan, but, he added, it is difficult to get enough numbers of such skilled medical staff due to competition among countries. The health force is doing its best, but its members are suffering continuous fatigue, with some of them deprived of days off over the past six months, said Dr Ahmed.

He added that all should understand that this virus spreads fast, with imminent risk looming from a third wave of infection, which already began in many countries, not only in our region. “The more we cooperate and rally efforts as a government, citizens and residents, the more we could cut down the number of infection cases and ease pressure on health establishments,” said Dr Ahmed.

The minister pointed out that the Sultanate is one of the first countries that joined COVAX (Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator) organisation supervised by the World Health Organisation. COVAX secures to member states access to a certain percentage of vaccinations, irrespective of the manufacturing firm or income of the state applying for the drug. It is an international guarantor, said the minister, who explained that countries with an ability to pay will contribute a sum to be specified by the WHO and the COVAX and that this sum will be used to cover the needs of persons most vulnerable to this disease.

This session, the Sultanate is a member of the WHO and a supporter of its efforts aimed at fair distribution of diagnostic instruments for all sorts of treatment and vaccinations, said Dr Ahmed.

He reaffirmed that the Supreme Committee, being in ongoing session, embarks on revising decisions pertaining to education and that the outcome will be announced in time. He stressed that the Minister of Education is conducting a meeting with officials concerned at the Ministry, while coordinating with the Ministry of Health.

The minister reaffirmed that on one’s health in this country would be compromised.

Corroborating the Supreme Committee’s decision to shut down non-abiding business outlets, the minister said that the decisions undertaken by the Committee aim to limit the number of infection cases.

Admitting that the cost of lockdown is immense, Dr Ahmed reaffirmed that the directives of His Majesty the Sultan aim to protect the life of all. He said that the decisions of the Supreme Committee convey a message to all about firmness in handling the current situation “because we reached a very serious phase of this pandemic”.

In his turn, Brig. Said bin Sulaiman al Aasmi, Royal Oman Police (ROP) Director-General of Operations, reaffirmed the preparedness of police members in all governorates of the Sultanate to carry out the decisions of the Supreme Committee which impose a ban on movement and a nighttime lockdown of activities from 8 pm to 5 am. He said that some cases will be exempt from the ban on movement like travellers or arriving passengers, as well as workers, who should all furnish documents that prove their eligibility to movement.

Brig Al Aasmi added that some fines have been awarded to offenders who violate the lockdown or fail to wear masks in public places. The offenders will be legally apprehended, interrogated and made to sign undertaking to pay or face transfer to the Public Prosecution Department.

Brig Al Aasmi also expressed his thanks to citizens and residents who cooperated in implementing the decisions of the Supreme Committee. He commended media coverage about lockdown hours which, he said, helped keep the roads empty, except for urgent cases.

Brig Al Aasmi added that the ROP will get the names of violators published after the completion of legal procedures.

He referred to a decision to allow entry to the Sultanate only for expats who carry valid visas. He said that those abroad whose visas have expired would not be allowed access into the Sultanate.

Meanwhile, Dr Saif bin Salim al Abri, Director-General of Disease Control and Surveillance at the Ministry of Health, said that, over the next two weeks, a certain mechanism will be announced for exempting people suffering from chronic diseases from going to the workplace.

In other comments, Dr Saif said that the Sultanate signed a number of agreements for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine in sufficient quantities before the end of this year, despite ongoing competition among countries.

Dr Saif added that priority for the time being is on obtaining 20% of the vaccines by the end of this year or early next year to cover the most vulnerable cases, namely frontline workers and people suffering from chronic diseases.

In his turn, Dr Anas bin Nasser al Kamyani, Family and Community Medicine Specialist at the Ministry of Health, spoke about his personal experience with Covid-19 which he contracted as a health worker. Describing his suffering, Dr. Anas said that it was a real ordeal to go through lack of ability to breathe, fever, acute infection, clogging of the lungs and other painful things for a period of almost five weeks at the hospital, most of which was at the ICU where he was continually connected with breathing apparatus.

Al Kamyani pointed out that health workers are always vulnerable to infection with the virus due to the nature of their work, no matter how that follow health precautions. He added that the sacrifices of health workers are many, not least their deprivation of days off, besides their constant apprehension from conveying infection to their family members. He explained that, only after physiotherapy, the last phase of treatment, that he overcame the crisis.

Meanwhile, Major Mohammed bin Salam al Hashami, Head of Electronic Media at the ROP’s Public Relations Department, said that his department receives many queries about types of violations, but, he noted, only the Supreme Committee is entitled to comment on them.

Maj Al Hashami said that there is an electronic system dedicated to violations of Supreme Committee decisions. He pointed out that the allocations (from fines) go to the fund designated to Covid-19 management. –ONA

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