Muscat: The Sultanate has classified coronavirus among 16 lethal infectious diseases and syndromes that must be notified to the competent authorities within 24 hours of diagnosis under the recently amended Law on Combatting Communicable Diseases.
Royal Decree 32 / 2020, promulgated on March 23, 2020, but published by the Ministry of Legal Affairs on Wednesday, overhauls the schedule of communicable diseases while vesting public health authorities with statutory powers to contain their spread.
The Schedule of Communicable Diseases classifies communicable diseases into three distinct sections based on their lethality and virulence. Coronavirus, which refers to a group of viruses that includes the novel coronavirus (COVID19) behind the pandemic convulsing dozens of countries around the world, has now been featured in Section I1 of the schedule. It includes deadly scourges such as Cholera, Plague, Yellow Fever, Meningococcal infection, Haemophilus influenzae Type-B invasive disease, Rabies, Malaria and Smear-positive pulmonary tuberculosis.
Also listed under Section I are eight other equally infectious syndromes, notably Acute flaccid paralysis, Fever and rash illness, Congenital rubella, Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Haemorrhagic fevers, Food poisoning of communicable causes, Coronavirus (MER-Cov), and Cases threatening public health according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Falling in Section II are 18 other diseases and maladies that while infectious are several notches less deadly than those featured in Section I. The list comprises: Typhoid fever, Brucellosis, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D communicable hepatitis cases, Hepatitis E, Visceral and cutaneous forms of Leishmaniasis, Bilharziasis, Active trachoma, Bacterial meningitis, Viral meningitis, Acquired immunodeficiency, Smear-negative pulmonary tuberculosis, Extrapulmonary tuberculosis, and Leprosy.
Finally, classified under Section III are: Influenza and parainfluenza, Mumps, Chickenpox, Respiratory infections for those younger than 15 years of age, and Acute diarrhoea for those younger than 15 years of age.
Article 2 of the Law specifies strict time limits for the notification of individuals afflicted with any of these communicable diseases based on which section they fall under. The Article states: “It is required to report a person infected, or is suspected of being infected, with a communicable disease, or who is a carrier of the germs of those diseases, to the nearest health establishment in accordance with the form issued by a decision of the Minister of Health within the following time limits: 24 hours – For diseases in section I of the schedule; 1 week – For diseases in section II of the schedule, and 20 days – For diseases in section III of the schedule.’
Individuals infected or suspected of being infected with a Section 1 communicable disease is required to “immediately go to the closest health establishment to undertake medical examination, to receive treatment and advice, and to be made aware of the dangers of the disease and the methods by which it is transmitted”.
The novel coronavirus (COVID19) has so far resulted in 231 infections in the Sultanate, while claiming one life.