MUSCAT – Dr Ahmed Mohammed al-Saeedi, Minister of Health and member of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, has said that the epidemiological situation in the Sultanate is improving continuously, but he urged all segments of society to keep their guards through sustained compliance to precautionary measures.
The minister valued the constant support of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik to the health sector and other sectors. He expressed his appreciation for the Royal directives to the Covid-19 Supreme Committee and for His Majesty the Sultan’s chairing the Committee’s meeting in Salalah last week, as well as His Majesty the Sultan’s directives to the committee, which put his words into action.
3,536,171 doses of Covid-19 vaccines administered
The minister made the statement today during the 26th press conference that the Covid-19 Supreme Committee held since the outbreak of the pandemic. At the press conference, held at the Ministry of Education, the Health Minister said that the Sultanate booked a total of 8,597,740 doses of Covid-19 vaccines, of which 3,536,171 have so far been administered. In fact, the Sultanate booked additional doses due to the fact that some companies are studying whether to administer the dose only to children aged 12 and above or include those aged above 6 years. Dr Ahmed spoke about an approach to expand campaigns targeting the vaccination of residents through their companies’ commitment to immunization plan.
8 of approved Covid-19 vaccines
The Health Minister said that the Sultanate seeks to obtain 500,000 doses of Sinovac, noting that vaccines provide 85-95 percent protection against the acuteness of the disease and cuts down the number of hospitalized people and those who pass away as a result of the disease. However, vaccination does not provide total protection from exposure to the virus, transfer or transmission of the virus, he added. Dr Ahmed affirmed that the Sultanate has 8 of approved Covid-19 vaccines, among them PfizerbioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, Sinovac and Sputnik.
The Health Minister reaffirmed 53 percent of the population in Dhofar is vaccinated, noting that, as of last week, zero cases of hospitalisation were registered among tourists and visitors to Dhofar. This, he explained, is testimony to the efficiency of vaccination.
No exemptions to avoid vaccination
In reply to a question during the press conference, the minister said that no exemptions are given to people seeking to avoid vaccination, except on purely health grounds. Dr Ahmed said he considers vaccination as one of many methods to safeguard public health. He hoped that all those aged 12 and above in the Sultanate will have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccination by mid-September 2021. The minister explained that, so far, the World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend taking the booster dose, or a third dose, which was approved by the United States’ Centre for Disease Control (CDC) for immune-compromised people suffering certain diseases. He noted that the longer the disease lingers worldwide, the more mutations are likely to spread faster at a global rate, like Delta. Asked whether GCC citizens who have taken two doses of vaccines would be exempt from the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, the Health Minister said that a meeting will be held shortly to discuss this option, which might be approved if two weeks have elapsed since the last dose.
Education sector received priority
Dr Madeeha Ahmed al-Shaibani, Education Minister, member of Covid-19 Supreme Committee, said that the Sultanate has been able to handle the pandemic through a set of procedures fairly well. She expressed her appreciation for all partners involved in combating this exceptional pandemic. The minister pointed out that the education sector received priority and that teaching, administrative and technical departments of the ministry, along with parents and the health sector, joined hands in achieving success in operating school (including General Education Diploma examinations). Dr Madeeha pointed out that the Ministry of Education will continue assessing the school operation programme in coordination with the Ministry of Health and in line with developments in the epidemiological situation in the Sultanate. The Ministry endorsed the general framework of school operation for the school year 2021-2022 and finalized the recovery plan and resumption of work from 12 September 2021. By 19 September, all students will have come back to their classes in school venues, she added.
Large collection of electronic curricula
Dr Yahya Khamis al-Harthy, Director General of Curricula Development at the Ministry of Education, said that the Ministry has a large reservoir of electronic curricula and that many lessons and electronic contents were registered and made available for interested users through direct transmission.
Resumption of Friday prayers soon
Dr Mohammed Said al-Maamari, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, said that, during its meeting next week, the Covid-19 Supreme Committee will issue a decision about the resumption of Friday prayers. Al-Maamari stressed that society proved its ability to adapt to precautionary measures and apply them at mosques and worship areas in accordance with the instructional guide. He added that, thanks to the efforts of people in-charge at worship areas, no cases of violations have been reported so far.
CAA prepared to protect society and aviation staff
Eng. Nayef Ali al-Abri, Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), underscored the preparedness of the CAA to apply the decisions of the Covid-19 Supreme Committee in cooperation with strategic partners to protect society and aviation staff in the Sultanate against the spread of the virus across air carriers. Al-Abri said that the circular issued recently by the CAA about travelers and airline companies was in implementation of the decisions of Covid-19 Supreme Committee. He noted that such decisions are capable of realising a safe comeback of business and activities of the economic sector. Al-Abri reviewed statistics on air traffic in the Sultanate in the first half of 2021, noting that the civil aviation sector, like elsewhere in the world, suffered the impacts of the global pandemic in the first half of 2021, compared to the corresponding period in 2019. Speaking in figures, he said that the number of inbound and outbound flights in the Sultanate fell by 70 percent while the number of passengers dropped by 81 percent and the volume of cargo declined by 26 percent. Muscat Air Surveillance Centre registered 139,041 flights during the first half of 2021, a slump of 53.5 percent, compared to the first half of 2019, said al-Abri. Upon the expected opening up of air traffic in future, the CAA braces for an intensified rate of air traffic monitoring and assessment of commitment to precautionary measures in Oman’s airports.
Extension of visas of 2021 without additional fees
Maj. Gen. Abdullah Ali al-Harthy, Assistant Inspector General of Police and Customs for Operations, spoke about the extension of visas from the beginning to the end of 2021 without additional fees. The issuance of visas will resume as before, under the same procedures for all segments and all countries, he added. Maj. Gen. al-Harthy added that those who have expat workers may extend their visas for additional periods via the website of the Royal Oman Police. With effect from 1 September 2021, the Sultanate’s air, land and sea checkpoints will open full swing for all applicants while at the same time adhering to the decisions of the Covid-19 Supreme Committee.
Land checkpoints will be opened from 1 September 2021
Al-Harthy said that, with effect from 1 October 2021, two-dose vaccination will be compulsory for all citizens and residents, without prejudice to the precautionary health measures, physical distancing and mask wearing procedures. So far, a decision to resume group activities has not been endorsed, said al-Harthy. He added that land checkpoints will be opened from 1 September 2021 under the same conditions set by the Covid-19 Supreme Committee for arrivals. Al-Harthy said that a decision to open social, economic and cultural activities will be issued by the Covid-19 Supreme Committee next week.
100 percent workforce from September 1, vaccination a must
Dr Saif Salim al-Abri, Director General of Disease Surveillance and Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said that, with effect from 1 September 2021, the public sector’s workforce will be back 100 percent and that vaccination is a must for all public workers. Currently, the number of people who have not taken two vaccines is being studied and that a decision in this regard will be issued next week.