Stay apart and break the chain

Muscat: The frequent orders and fervent appeals by the authorities to follow social distancing guidelines are falling on deaf ears.

A drive around the downtown Ruwi and its adjoining areas reveals how recklessly people crowd at different corners and walk shoulder-to-shoulder.

While most people across the country are following the guidelines that health authorities say are necessary to keep the Coronavirus from spreading, many are not.

“In these critical moments of uncertainty with both physical and mental strain, we should discipline ourselves, and in some cases, it is necessary to police the behaviour of other people as well,” said Hamed al Wahaibi, who stopped his car to scare away a group of people at a sideway in Ruwi.

The Supreme Committee and the Ministry of Health have said it more than enough times that social distancing is the best way to stem the spread of COVID-19.

While expressing his ire, Hamed said, “The attitude of some people is not acceptable that they pave the way for the spread of the infection. Even if we do not have the authority to lay charges on the offenders, at least we can scare them away,” he told the Observer.

Hamed is not the only one who screams and shouts at people who wander around these townships in the capital city without adhering to the laws.

“It is a blatant disregard and show of ignorance to the situation we are faced with. In this time of the pandemic, it’s reasonable to ask someone to move away if they’re within six feet of you,” said Kevin George and his wife, a health worker.

But why so many people, most of them are blue collar workers, come out of their residences and loiter around?

The simple reason is most of them are jobless due to Coronavirus squeeze and left with no money even to feed themselves.

As businesses, factories and industries shut down, millions of migrant workers from South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have been laid off.

“How long can I sit in the room doing nothing. We have no jobs. Even no money to feed ourselves. When the temperature comes down, we come out to meet others while sharing a tea,” said Mohamed Nooruddin, an expat from Hamriya.

Mohamed is one among thousands of expat workers who share overcrowded houses in and around the capital area who can be potential carriers of the Coronavirus.

More than six persons share a room with three bunk beds and one common toilet. And the rooms are rented out by ‘middlemen’, who set strict conditions for the use of electricity and water.

“It is a kind of rationing. We cannot switch on the air-conditioners or lights continuously as the bill amount will mount. Even there is restriction on water use. So we try to stay out as maximum as possible,” said Abdul Aziz, a casual worker.