Oman preps holistic response to COVID-19

With the threat posed by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) going beyond public health considerations into one with wider socioeconomic ramifications, the establishment of a high-level national committee to mount an integrated and holistic government response to the crisis has been widely welcomed as prudent and timely.
His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik ordered on Tuesday night the constitution of a Supreme Committee to prep the country for all eventualities likely to be unleashed by the pandemic as it sweeps across the globe, while also roiling oil and stock markets in recent days.
The composition of the Supreme Committee will be revealed on Thursday when it convenes for the first time under the chairmanship of Sayyid Hamoud bin Faisal al Busaidy, Minister of Interior.
But given the pandemic’s ability to impact a wide swathe of economic sectors globally, including travel and tourism, sports and games, MICE and public events, Oil & Gas, stock markets, shopping and retail services, and small businesses, it is anticipated that the apex committee will be multisectoral in its composition.
A key part of the Supreme Committee’s remit is to draft localised and national-level contingency plans should Oman be faced with an outbreak of the kind that is now afflicting a number of countries around the world.
In the event, the need for large-scale quarantine and isolation zones within the country’s health care infrastructure, enforcement of lockdowns, and the provision of health care, food and other civil services to affected populations will have to be addressed.
While the Ministry of Health will continue to play a frontline role in the management of the Covid-19 crisis from the public health standpoint, it will be able to bank on the Supreme Committee for additional funding, emergency resources and other wherewithal in the event of an unexpected spurt in infections. Potential support roles for PACDA and other civil defence units of the governments are anticipated in worst-scale scenarios.
According to experts, the Supreme Committee is also expected to weigh the need for the procurement and stockpiling of emergency supplies, encompassing not only health care related goods, such as testing kits, face masks, sanitizer liquids and other protective gear, but also essentials like bottled water, basic foodstuffs, transport fuel, and so on.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the virus and the widely differing expectations of how long it will take for countries to contain its spread, the Supreme Committee is expected to err on the side of caution and take all necessary steps to be suitably geared for a large-scale outbreak.
Assuming that the Supreme Committee’s mandate also covers economic impacts, it may be called upon to draft measures to mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic to small businesses and their Omani staff, in particular, threatened with bankruptcy and potential layoffs.
A number of countries around the world have already announced stimulus measures to keep SMEs – particularly those operating in travel and tourism – afloat as they ride out the crisis. Banks are also assisting with funding support, relaxed repayment terms and other sops.