No avenues to cool off this summer

MUSCAT: As summer peaks, in normal circumstances, demand for outdoor recreation skyrockets with people crowding at beaches, parks, and other public places.

But chances for a carefree summer evening at any of these spots look unlikely in the Sultanate as the authorities have not given the green signal to reopen them due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Although the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling the COVID-19 situation has eased several lockdown measures, it is yet to decide on the opening of any leisure facilities that attract people en masse.

On the contrary, the Ministry of Health has advised both citizens and residents to refrain from visiting beaches or parks to avoid getting infected with COVID-19.

Echoing the same sentiments, an official at Muscat Municipality said that all the measures including closures have been motivated by sincere public health concerns.

“Open beaches are crowd pullers. Who is going to say at the entry point of the beach or a park to send people one by one? So, I don’t think it is a viable option now to allow entry”, said the official.

The closure is aimed at preventing people from congregating and thus protecting their health, he said, adding, “I don’t think people would stay far enough at these places just because we are human. It’s time to protect each other. Physical distancing is the key to defeating this virus”.

While admitting that restrictions are the right answer to keep people from gathering, Quasim al Lawati, a banker said, “letting people enjoy a natural resource to cool off the summer should be considered”.

Al Lawati, who normally takes his annual leave during summer and flies abroad with his family, said the coronavirus has spoilt all his summer plans.

“Our children are getting sick from staying at home. Social distancing is not going to end in June, July or August. Even if we escaped getting sick from the coronavirus, we are all sick of staying at home, practising social distancing and wearing masks”, he said.

According to him, the opening of local tourism spots will help people escape the summer heat and the boredom of staying at home.

“It is now June and still I do not know where we might be able to go on holiday this summer”, Al Lawati said.

Even as the Ministry of Tourism allowed hotels to open some of their activities, they have been advised to provide only limited access to leisure facilities.

He told Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur that it was not known how long it would take to develop a treatment or a vaccine.

“We have all got to learn to live with this virus, to do our business with this virus in our presence, to have social relations with this virus in our presence and not to be continuously having to be in lockdown because of the widespread infections that can occur,” Nabarro added.