Muscat: The Sultanate represented by the Ministry of Social Development, participated in an emergency meeting of the Council of Arab Ministers for Social Affairs, held on Sunday via video conferencing, to discuss the social implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sultanate was represented at the meeting by Shaikh Mohammed bin Said al Kalbani, Minister of Social Development.
Addressing the meeting, Al Kalbani said the Sultanate took several decisions to ensure maximum social protection including opening 69 facilities for institutional quarantine across the Sultanate and preparing an additional 32 reserve isolation centres, banning all social and religious gatherings as well as closing all places of worship, schools, universities, rehabilitation centers for disabled children and activating the distance learning system.
The government activated the telework system and the private sector companies reduced the number of employees at the workplace and cut the working hours. These measures were in place until the beginning of June. At the same time, maternal and child care services continued to be delivered without disruption, Al Kalbani said.
The minister of social development said that, on the Royal directives of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, citizens and expats are being treated equally in the provision of the social and health services with the hospitals and health centres opened to citizens and expats alike.
The minister of social development commended the role of the Omani women in terms of delivering services, providing assistance on both the institutional level and the field work as well as their participation in the voluntary work in cooperation with the Relief and Sheltering sector and the Medical Response sector.
With regard to the Sultanate’s efforts to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, the minister of social development said that His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik issued an order authorising a programme of interest-free emergency loans to assist some segments of entrepreneurs whose businesses have been affected by the coronavirus-induced lockdown particularly the holders of Riyada Card (for small and medium enterprises) and self-employed entrepreneurs, as well as beneficiaries of loans of Oman Development Bank and Al Raffd Fund.
The minister said that the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) issued a circular to all banks and financing companies to defer all types of instalments of loans for those affected by the lockdown without interests or additional fees. — ONA