Pull your masks up!

The indefinite ban on public and private gatherings and other restrictions imposed last week by the Supreme Committee did not come as a surprise for many in Oman. The decision, according to them, resulted from the recalcitrant behaviour of the people who were not following the precautionary measures.
“Many people were not giving heed to the appeals by the authorities with regard to the precautionary measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic”, said Salim al Lawati, an executive working with an event management company.
On Wednesday last, the Committee prohibited all group events, postponed students’ return to universities and advised citizens and residents against foreign travel, as part of its efforts to further restrict the spread of the virus. The ban on gatherings include international conferences, sports events and exhibitions.
“I anticipated that the government would reimpose the measures as people were freely conducting meetings without following the social distancing measures”, said Al Lawati.
“Now children are back to online education, businesses have to either postpone or call off their meetings and many have to cancel their travel plans”, he said.
He said his company has been rescheduling a conference that was planned for February.
The Supreme Committee and the Ministry of Health have been pleading with the public during the last several months to do more to help curb the spread of the virus.
They called on people to do more social distancing, wear their masks, and to stop going to social gatherings but new cases continued to rise.
“This is no surprise to me”, said Mubarak al Wahaibi. “I am not surprised one bit because people have not been following the rules strictly. These are practices necessary to prevent the spread of the pandemic. They are meant to save people from getting sick.”
While deploring the apathetic approach of the people, the committee said, “Large gatherings were held for social events and many people failed to wear face masks or observe physical distances”.
Business establishments failed to comply with the health procedures devised by the authorities concerned. At the beginning of 2021, the situation looked bright against the July-August period when the daily average reached over 1,000 cases with a daily average of 11 deaths in the first week of August.
Since the start of December, the average came down to 170 from 308 cases in November and 510 in October and the number of daily deaths below five. From the first week of January, the average cases fell to less than 100 a day and only one death reported per day and approximately 40 people admitted to intensive care units.
The strict implementation of measures like closure of shops and schools, isolation of neighbourhoods, ban on gatherings and mandatory use of face masks resulted in bringing down the number of cases and gradual return of life to normal.
But the situation has changed and there has been a marked increase in the number of cases, observed, the Supreme Committee, advising citizens and residents to avoid travelling abroad during the forthcoming period, except in cases of extreme emergency. While noting that many countries have imposed restrictions on travel and movement, the Committee cautioned, “the pandemic situation arising from the new mutating strains of the disease is extremely delicate and risky”.