No more lockdowns: Health minister

MUSCAT: Despite fluctuating COVID-19 infection and mortality cases, the Supreme Committee ruled out the possibility of lockdowns with the Minister of Health Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi asserting that the national economy cannot be shut for ever.

“I am sure that we will overcome this pandemic. I am sure that no one in the government and committee wants us to return to the state of closure. Any further decision that might turn to be necessary in future, God forbids, may entail serious losses for the national economy,” he said.

The minister made these comments during the weekend press briefing of the Supreme Committee dealing with the pandemic in the Sultanate.

The minister also insisted that people must take extreme caution, and they should exhibit greater alertness and responsibility in public places to tackle the health crisis.

A second wave of coronavirus is inevitable, but we can avoid it through full commitment to precautionary measures that include wearing face masks and following up other healthy habits, the minister said.

“The more we reduce the infection rate in the community by adhering to the preventive measures; the more we are able to return to life normally”, he said.

While urging institutions to ensure only 70 per cent attendance of employees, Dr Saif bin Salim al Abri, Director-General of Disease Surveillance and Control at the Ministry of Health, asked people who have serious symptoms of infection not to go to offices or other  places.

“100 per cent attendance of employees at the workplace is violation of the decisions of the Supreme Committee,” he said.

According to the minister, the authorities are in contact with most COVID-19 vaccine production firms that reach advanced stages, but no regulatory agency or drug monitoring institution will allow the distribution of the vaccine to humans before proper checks on its validity and safety.

Dr Al Abri said a daily report on the number of cases is being maintained because the ministry detected a rise in the number of infection cases in governorates where high numbers were not registered before.

Regarding COVID-19 tests for those travelling abroad, he said, “If there are no private institutions to conduct the tests, they can visit any government hospitals and do the test by paying the necessary fee.”