HM lends unlimited support in fight against Coronavirus: Health Minister

Muscat: Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Health, has said that His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik is lending unlimited support in the war against Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Al Saeedi, member of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, said in a press conference on Thursday that the number of registered positive cases in the Sultanate stood at 2,348. The death toll stood at 11 while 495 patients recovered, said Al Saeedi, adding that 65 patients are hospitalized, of them 17 in the Intensive Care Unit.

The press conference, the 5th held by the Supreme Committee since the outbreak of the pandemic, saw the participation of Dr Abdullah bin Nasser al Harrasi, Chairman of the Public Authority for Radio and Television (PART), Member of the Covid-19 Control Committee, Eng Issam bin Saud al Zadjali, Chairman of Muscat Municipality, Eng Ali bin Mohammed al Abri, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, Dr Saif bin Salim al Abri, Director-General of Disease Control and Surveillance at the Ministry of Health and Brig Hassan bin Ali al Mujaini, Head of Public Morale, Ministry of Defence.

The Health Minister reaffirmed that no indicators, as of now, show that the virus is abating, as the Sultanate has not yet reached the peak of the pandemic curve.

The Supreme Committee will take a decision on whether or not to allow celebration of Eid Al Fitr at the right time, said Dr Ahmed al Saeedi, adding that the call to end Command and Control Checkpoints between governorates of the Sultanate was based on the view of the Health Ministry that traffic between wilayats in the daytime is very low.

In reply to a question, the minister said that studies on the virus are still on and results differ from one country to another, but, he confirmed, it is not possible to predict the date when the Coronavirus curve peaks. He explained that countries announce peaks when the number of cases subsides consistently.

The minister pointed out that, so far, the Ministry conducted tests on more than 40,000 people and that the Central Laboratory has been expanded in Salalah city and it will start conducting diagnoses in Dhofar from Thursday.

Dr Ahmed al Saeedi said that Covid-19 mortality rate is very low in the Sultanate, 0.5 per cent.

The Governorate of South Al Batinah registered the highest number of positive cases, said the minister who explained that no area will be locked down unless it is confirmed to have experienced community-based transfer of infection. He said that most cases in the Sultanate happened due to known causes, including patients’ mingling with other people.

Institutional isolation is available in all governorates of the Sultanate, the minister said, adding that “we have not yet attained a point of recovery due to the fact that the virus is still propagating and that preventive measures have to be maintained.”

The minister urged owners of companies and officials of other sectors to shoulder their responsibilities. He cited cases of negligence in three establishments in Muttrah, the first of which caused the infection of 108 people with Covid-19, the second 30 cases and the third 14 cases.

The minister pointed out that a large volume of health data issued about the pandemic show that another phase of the disease might be in the making.

Coexistence in the current circumstances requires adherence to precautionary measures and instructions issued by the departments concerned, he stressed.

Meanwhile, Dr Abdullah al Harrasi commended the role of the media which helps, through all its platforms, in spreading awareness about the unpredictable risks posed by Coronavirus. He pointed out that Omani media will present new types of messages in the near future.

Al Harrasi reaffirmed that media action has been far-reaching, comprehensive and consistent in tackling the issue of the pandemic, since the announcement of the first case of Covid-19 infection, and this reflected positively on society by setting up a great bastion of public awareness.

The work of Omani information is clear-cut, coupled with a high degree of awareness, said Dr Abdullah. He cautioned that the situation is delicate and requires great attention. He added that rumours have subsided, thanks to the active role of the media and the Public Prosecution Department.

Al Harrasi described as “Voice of the State” the statements and decisions of the Supreme Committee that are published via official means of information, notably Oman News Agency (ONA). The Supreme Committee’s statements and decisions published by ONA, Oman TV, or any other official media are in the view of law binding, said Dr Abdullah, adding that such official information is never monopolized or denied access to the public.

“I came to know that some media establishments cut down the salaries of their employees. A media person/journalist is in fact a member in the nation’s troops, particularly during the current pandemic,” said Dr Abdullah, who called upon media establishments to consider the significant role of journalists who need to be socially and economically at ease.

Muscat Municipality chief’s Eng Issam al Zadjali said that most of the re-opened activities related to the automobile sector due to vehicles’ importance to individuals and establishments, both in civil and military services.

The conditions governing the opening of establishments relate directly to health and safety concerns, said Al Zadjali, adding that a committee headed by the Minister of Health is discussing the conditions needed to achieve compliance to health precautions.

Al Zadjali admitted that misinterpretation of the decision (of the Supreme Committee) was behind the offences registered against some establishments which did not fully understand the decision.

Eng Ali al Abri of the Regional Municipalities and Water Resources Ministry reaffirmed the existence of a good level of coordination between government departments whose activities are partly opened. He commended compliance with social distancing and full sterilization in the permitted activities as indicative of cooperation and understanding.

Brig Hassan al Mujaini of Morale Guidance said that the lockdown of Muscat Governorate was due to changing variables, which may change later. He added that the assessment of the situation in any governorate depends on health reports according to which checkpoints are set up if necessary.

Brig  Al Mujaini explained that, due to the nature of their work, medical crew have a special status when moving between governorates.

Dr Saif al Abri said that, thanks to the implementation of proper health precautions, the Sultanate’s pandemic curve is quasi-flat.

He cautioned against any compromise of health precautions when re-opening activities.

He said that the proportion of Covid-19 infection in Muscat is greater among expats,l while in other governorates it is greater among Omanis.

Brig Al Mujaini added that some patients deliberately hid epidemic investigation information, especially where such information relates to their jobs and their workplaces, but unfortunately we discovered that some others pick up the infection from there. –ONA

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