Sultanate has good surveillance systems: WHO

Oman has been one of the countries in the world to quickly respond and activate an emergency plan since the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, a top official of the WHO told the Observer during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

While admitting that the measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 have been costly, he said it has been effective as the death rates are lower than what was initially thought.

Speaking to the Observer, Dr. Ahmed al Mandhari, WHO Director for the East Mediterranean Region, said Oman has good surveillance and investigation systems, which were established in collaboration with the WHO. “Adequate measures were taken by Oman at all ports of arrival, tracing the contacts of the infected cases, distribution of PPE kits, laboratory tests, outreach campaigns and staffing in the healthcare”.

On the opening of the airports, he told the Observer: “It has been five months since the outbreak of the virus in China. It has affected many countries across different sectors, apart from creating a health crisis. Many countries are now considering easing restrictions by reevaluating the risks. But they have to consider key measures suggested by the WHO”.

According to other WHO officials, “We recognise the serious socio-economic impact of the lockdowns which have a detrimental effect on many people’s lives. Therefore, to protect lives and livelihoods, a slow, steady lifting of lockdowns is key to stimulating economies while keeping a vigilant eye on the virus so that control measures can be quickly implemented”.

Dr. Al Mandhari said: “In our region, the proportion of infected healthcare workers varies from one per cent to 20 percent. However, there is no systematic reporting of healthcare worker infections to the WHO, and we believe this number under-represents COVID-19 infections among the health workers”.

He added, “Tuesday marked 134 days since the first case of COVID-19 was reported from China and 105 days since the first case was reported from the East Mediterranean”.

During this time, almost four million people have been infected globally, including almost 300,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, the WHO has released guidelines for workplaces including maintaining physical distance among employees, emphasizing handwashing procedures, regular disinfecting of the workplace, and encouraging teleworking when possible, said the guideline.

For schools, the guidelines include finding ways to ensure that children can play while maintaining distance, deciding whether some children can learn from home, and paying attention to local circumstances, such as whether there is currently a major outbreak in the community.