Some restrictions within Muttrah likely to be eased

Muscat: The government on Thursday indicated that some restrictions would be eased within the wilayat of Muttrah while stressing the importance of adhering physical distancing during the holy month of Ramadhan.

The Supreme Committee on Covid-19 held its fourth e-press-conference on Thursday, which was also attended by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health for Health Affairs, among others.

Muttrah is currently isolated at varying levels and steps will be taken today or tomorrow to allow movement within Muttrah itself and also allow some commercial activities. The government is also considering easing some measures in other parts of the country ensuring safety measures are strictly followed including social distancing.

As the governorates outside Muscat have reported family and social gatherings and if people continue to gather, the cases will increase. In some governorates, people, including citizens, are still gathering and socializing. One affected person had 70 contacts within 24 hours.

The authorities urged both citizens and residents to strictly avoid family and community gatherings during the holy month of Ramadhan.

The officials also said Oman is yet to reach the peak of the virus outbreak and may take a week or two to reach this point.

“If we had not followed the procedures, the peak would have reached a while ago. So people must continue to be patient with the measures applied by the government,” the MOH undersecretary said.

Most of the cases are reported from Muscat Governorate, with the wilayat of Muttrah most affected, followed by Seeb and Bausher.

Every person must consider himself a carrier of the virus and not approach the others and keep a distance of two meters between him and others, said the MOH officials.

According to officials from the Ministry of Health, 39 cases are currently undergoing treatment in hospitals, nine of which are in intensive care. The total number of cases in isolation is 6,807.

More than 3,500 hotel rooms have been provided for isolation purposes.

Authorities assured that tests are carried out in all governorates and free tests for expatriates are available even in private hospitals.

It was revealed that blood plasma was given to some patients, which could be expanded to other patients in the future, but the result depends on the patient himself.

At the same time, the undersecretary for health affairs added that there is no guarantee of any drug offered now is fully effective.

Some recovered patients were given hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) tablets during treatment. No side-effects reported so far.

He added that there are discussions to open some commercial activities provided that the health measures are taken care of, as the physical distancing is the strongest weapon to combat Covid-19.

“We are also studying a draft on opening the aviation sector, but there are no recommendations yet”, officials said.

Undersecretary of MOH also added that the number of people recovered from Covid-19 In the Sultanate has gone up to 307.

Two cases were recorded among pregnant women, both of them are safe and at home.

Officials also confirmed that two Omanis got infected with Covid-19 outside the country.

There is no possibility of the number of new cases dropping to zero, but it will surely come down gradually. Tests are done only for people with symptoms. “There is no test to show that a person is a carrier of the virus without symptoms,” MOH said.

At the beginning of the outbreak, there were difficulties as the tests in the central laboratory exceeded 2000 tests every day, which is a large number. We are all set to begin rapid testing in some hospitals, added officials.

More than 2,060 samples examined on Wednesday and the total number of samples tested exceeded 29,000 since the start of the pandemic.

Undersecretary of MOH said the percentage of confirmed cases after the tests are not more than 5 percent.

“The number of cases due to travel is down 9.2 percent, cases due to contact with infected persons are 19 percent. The main challenge is that 71 percent of cases now are due to community transmission.”

The Minister of Health said this virus may remain like flu, causing immunity in society. However, there will be infections, but not in large numbers.  71% of cases registered now in the Sultanate are due to community transmission.

MOH officials are still visiting homes in Muttrah because many non-Omanis have difficulties in accessing health centers. The percentage of positive cases among non-Omanis in some locations is 50.

“Cases are taken up separately for Omanis and residents, and institutional isolation is provided after verifying their living conditions,” said Dr. Saif al Abri, DG of Diseases Surveillance and Control.

Muscat Municipality

Muscat Municipality officials said there are discussions to open some commercial activities. The municipality also advised all against exercising on sidewalks and public corridors.

The municipality also highlighted the need for having labour camps outside the residential areas has become important.

Head of the Relief and Sheltering Sector said over 3,000 hotel rooms are available to preventively isolate people infected with covid-19.

“Around 3,547 hotel rooms have been used for quarantine purposes. Social awareness campaigns have helped in reducing the spread of the virus.”