Coronavirus: Knowns and the Unknowns

Oman Observer - 2 ore 31 min fa

The International Monetary Fund expects the pandemic will cause a global recession in 2020 that could be worse than the one triggered by the 2008 financial crisis. The depth of a recession, how long it will last and the nature of the recovery are a matter of debate. Economists say it will largely depend on how long the lockdowns last—around a quarter of all humanity is currently in lockdown—and how far government support goes in helping individuals, businesses and markets survive the crisis.

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MOH clarifies on medical purchases from China

Oman Observer - 3 ore 13 min fa

Muscat: The Ministry of Health in the Sultanate of Oman has clarified reports in international and regional media about the purchase of Coronavirus test tubes (Covid 19) by various countries from China.

The ministry would like to clarify that the Sultanate did not purchase the above-mentioned products and that what was imported from the People’s Republic of China is a number of reagents and solutions that match the standards set by the World Health Organization, and whose results have been compared with the results of previously approved examinations.


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Cooking gas firm fined RO 40,000

Oman Observer - 3 ore 18 min fa

Barka: The Court of First Instance in Barka has ruled against a cooking gas filling company for violating the Consumer Protection Law. The first accused was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of RO 40,000 in the case.

As per the details, judicial inspection officers were conducting a routine inspection at commercial establishments when they discovered a cooking gas filling company engaged in the illicit practice of reducing the standard amount of gas by up to 4kg. The Consumer Protection Department took legal action against the company and referred the case file to the competent court which convicted the first accused of commercial fraud.

Commenting on the case, Ahmed bin Salih al Zedjali, director of the Consumer Protection Department, said that the establishment violated the Consumer Protection Law by reducing the gas quantity.

He called on all traders and suppliers to abide by the law and to stick to transparency in dealing with the consumers. He urged the owners of gas cylinder vehicles to check the weight of gas cylinders before loading them in the vehicles.

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Royal Army of Oman activates emergency plans

Oman Observer - 3 ore 20 min fa

Muscat: The Royal Army of Oman (RAO), represented by the Sultan’s Armed Forces engineering unit, has ramped up its preparedness level to play its part in the ongoing efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

RAO has activated emergency plans and formed field teams to conduct disinfection and sterilization of roads and public places across the Sultanate.

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Qatar Airways CEO says will keep flying but warns cash is running out

Oman Observer - 3 ore 34 min fa

DUBAI: Qatar Airways will continue to operate flights as long as necessary to get stranded travelers home, Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker told Reuters on Sunday, but warned that the carrier could soon run out of cash.
“We have enough cash to take us through a very short period of time,” he said in a phone interview.
He said the airline would eventually have to seek support from its owner, the Qatar government.
The Middle East carrier is one of few global airlines to continue operate after the coronavirus decimated travel demand almost overnight. — Reuters

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Saudi Arabia’s coronavirus death toll doubles to eight: spokesman

Oman Observer - 4 ore 48 min fa

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded four new fatalities from the coronavirus, bringing its death toll to eight, the health ministry spokesman told a news conference on Sunday.
The kingdom has also registered 96 new infections, taking its total to 1,299, the highest among the Gulf Arab states. — Reuters

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Modi seeks ‘forgiveness’ from India’s poor over coronavirus lockdown

Oman Observer - 5 ore 12 min fa

MUMBAI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the nation’s poor for forgiveness on Sunday, as the economic and human toll from his 21-day nationwide lockdown deepens and criticism mounts about a lack of adequate planning ahead of the decision.
Modi announced a three week-lockdown on Tuesday to curb the spread of coronavirus. But the decision has stung millions of India’s poor, leaving many hungry and forcing jobless migrant laborers to flee cities and walk hundreds of kilometers to their native villages.
“I would firstly like to seek forgiveness from all my countrymen,” Modi said in a nationwide radio address.
The poor “would definitely be thinking what kind of prime minister is this, who has put us into so much trouble,” he said, urging people to understand there was no other option.
“Steps taken so far… will give India victory over corona,” he added.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India rose to 979 on Sunday, with 25 deaths.
The government announced a $22.6 billion economic stimulus plan on Thursday to provide direct cash transfers and food handouts to India’s poor.
In an opinion piece published on Sunday, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo – two of the three winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2019 – said even more aid for the poor is needed.
“Without that, the demand crisis will snowball into an economic avalanche, and people will have no choice but to defy orders,” they wrote in the Indian Express.
The lockdown is expected to exacerbate India’s economic woes at a time when growth had already slumped to its lowest pace in six years.


There still appears to be broad support for strong measures to avoid a coronavirus catastrophe in India, a country of some 1.3 billion people where the public health system is poor.
But opposition leaders, analysts and some citizens are increasingly criticizing its implementation. In particular, they say the government appears to have been caught off guard by the mass movement of migrants following the announcement, which threatens to spread the disease into the hinterlands.
“The Gov’t had no contingency plans in place for this exodus,” tweeted opposition politician Rahul Gandhi as images of migrant laborers walking long distances to return home dominated local media.
#ModiMadeDisaster was a top trending topic in India on Sunday on social media site Twitter.
Police said four migrants were killed on Saturday when a truck ran into them in the western state of Maharashtra. Also on Saturday, a migrant collapsed and died in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, according to a police official.
“We will die of walking and starving before getting killed by corona,” said migrant worker Madhav Raj, 28, as he walked by the road in Uttar Pradesh.
On Sunday, several hundred migrants in the town of Paippad, in southern Kerala state, gathered in a square demanding transport back to their hometowns.
The central government has called on states to provide marooned laborers with food and shelter, and Modi’s supporters slammed state governments on Twitter for failing to properly implement the lockdown.
In India’s cities, too, anger was rising.
“We have no food or drink. I am sat down thinking how to feed my family,” said homemaker Amirbee Shaikh Yusuf, 50, in Mumbai’s sprawling Dharavi slum.
“There is nothing good about this lockdown. People are angry, no one is caring for us.”

Following is the spread of the coronavirus in South Asia’s eight nations, according to government figures:


— Reuters

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Social distancing is a life saving step

Oman Observer - 6 ore 6 min fa

Muscat: As the Sultanate is confronting a growing number of COVID-19 cases, the government focus, along with several other measures, has shifted to social distancing.

Circulars being issued by different ministries are reflective of the need to “keep distance from other individuals in order to avoid catching the virus yourself and to avoid passing it on”.

Although slow, yet steadily both citizens and expatriates are coming to terms with the orders to avoid crowding at market and other places.

“All of us need to understand that the situation is really, really serious. We need to keep social distancing as it is required not just getting infected but not to infect others”, said Hamed al Sinawi, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital.

He said that the advice is difficult to follow as our culture does not allow us to keep away from each other. Greeting in our culture is expressed through physical interaction.

”It’s life-saving – not necessarily for you alone, but for everyone in the community. So social distancing is currently the most important step with which we can control the spread of the pandemic. We need social distancing across the country, and we need to keep it in place”, added Dr Ahmed.

Oman’s Supreme Committee that deals with COVID-19 emphasized that it is important for everyone to practice social distancing and minimize contact with people, including home gatherings, to help reducing the ability of the virus to spread in the population.

According to Government Communications Centre (GCC), social distancing is a sort of behavioural change by adopting some actions that reduce communication and contact with others.

Dr Ahmed said that though there has not been any evidence of community transmission in the Sultanate, “all of us should make it an obligation that we keep a two-metre distance from others, try maximum to stay at home and do not get into crowded places”.

Echoing the same suggestions Dr Basheer Alikaprampil, Specialist, Internal Medicine at Bader al Samaa Hospital said that social distancing is currently the most important factor that will help control the COVID-19 outbreak.

“But it should not be considered just as a physical distancing or avoiding close contact with other individuals, it should be practiced as a way to getting not infected and not passing the infection on to others as well”, he said.

Social distancing can also effectively extend to environmental precautions such as disinfecting often-touched surfaces that may pass on the virus, he said.

Dr Basheer advised that any person with symptoms even of an ordinary flu should consult medical experts and keep away from others.

“Everyone should stay at home except for essential activities, such as grocery shopping or to seek medical care, or to perform work for essential duties including public services etc”, he said.

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Primary Health Care Institutions Role in Combating COVID019

Oman Observer - 6 ore 12 min fa

Muscat: The Ministry of Health’s Primary Health Care institutions are the first treatment line in the Sultanate and the key for all levels of health care (secondary and tertiary), along with linking society and health service providers. The Ministry has committed to put the primary health care attop priority forward reaching the goal of health for all, stipulated in the World Health OrganizationConstitution.

“The Ministry’s primary health care institutions throughout the various governorates of the Sultanate provide many preventive, treatment and rehabilitative services, as PHC gathers both the health care seekers and service providers,” Dr Badria Mohsen Al-Rashidi, Director of the Health Care Services Support at MOH indicated.

“With the emergence of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) epidemic, the Ministry has taken several precautionary measures, including working in border outlets and airports to assess arrivals in the Sultanate and identify groups that need home or institutional quarantine or transfer some critical cases to intensive care in hospitals,” Dr Badria added.

After identifying people who need home or institutional quarantine, the patients are followed up with phone calls to check on their health condition or request their attendance if necessary.

It is primary health care institutions that categorize the cases with symptoms of fever and cold, or those with similar symptoms of COVID-19 disease, performing the necessary examinations for suspected cases. Accordingly they determine whether positive results should be under home quarantine or hospitalized if necessary.

The health services in all PHC institutions currently have been limited to cover only emergency cases, colds and expanded immunization of children, while Maternity clinic visits are restricted to only four. As for patients with chronic diseases, Dr Badria explained that phone numbers were set to request from pharmacy personnel an advance preparation of patient’s monthly medications without waiting for the doctor’s visit.

On the significance of the social distancing, Dr Badria called on all primary health care institutions in the Sultanate’s various governorates to apply this principle to reduce the number of visitors, urging all employees to commit with the infection control measures and spread of  health awareness on COVID-19.


As they are the first line of defense against COVID-19, PHC institutions follow certain criteria in the assessing received cases. The medical records clerk will ask some important questions that help to assess the patient’s condition initially, including: What are the current symptoms that you have? Have you recently returned from travel, have you had contact with someone at home recently returned from travel?

If the symptoms are normal and the patient have not travel, he/she would receive regular service. If it turns out that the patient has some similar symptoms to Corona virus and has returned or been in contact with one of the travelers, he/she will be given mask and gloves and then directed  to one of the isolation rooms (3 rooms are available for these cases). The concerned doctor will communicate with the patient via the isolation roomphone, and ask more questions in detail that would help significantly in diagnosing the condition and give instructions for home quarantine.

The physician will perform all the required examinations (checking temperature, pressure, respiratory system) then collecting a saliva sample from the mouth and a sample from the nose. Meanwhile, the health educator will provide all instructions to be followed at home until the results appear which will often take two to three days.  If the result were to be positive, the head of the health center will personally contact the patient to take more information before starting the 14-day home quarantine procedures and communicate daily with the patient to check on his condition and the occurrence of any other developments.

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Pvt sector urged not to compromise on salaries

Oman Observer - 7 ore 51 min fa

Muscat: Majlis A’ Shura on Sunday discussed measures taken by the competent authorities to minimise the spread of Covid-19 in the sultanate.

Apart from reviewing the precautionary measures taken to protect citizens and residents in the Sultanate from infection, the meeting discussed letters received from some citizens, which included complaints about deduction from their monthly salaries during the quarantine period.

The council said stressed there should be no compromise on the salaries of employees in the private sector.

The General Federation of Oman Workers (GFOW) said that it is monitoring cases of violations of workers’ rights in the private sector by some companies under the pretext of measures taken to combat the spread of Covid-19  and some of these violations include termination of service, deduction of wages, and forced unpaid leave.

GFOW said monitored the cases in cooperation with the competent authorities to take necessary measures in this regard. It urged all workers in the Sultanate to inform of any violations in light of the application of measures to fight Covid-19.

The Ministry of Manpower said it followed up on reports that some private institutions and companies have been cutting the salaries of their employees in light of reducing or stopping the work of some of them due to the current health conditions.

The meeting urged citizens and residents to adhere to the procedures and precautions approved by the Supreme Committee on Covid-19 asked the private sector to work jointly with the government.


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2,000 inbound travellers under institutional quarantine

Oman Observer - 8 ore 26 min fa

Muscat: Around 2,000 people who returned from abroad have been provided with institutional isolation, especially to those who do not have adequate conditions for isolation at home.

Institutional health isolation of up to 14 days shall be in designated locations that are subject to supervision and follow-up from the relief, shelter, medical response and public health sectors.

The Ministry of Health has reaffirmed that ‘health isolation’ (home quarantine)
is the duty of all citizens and residents who arrive from abroad, irrespective of whether they are students or belong to other segments of society.

The ministry said that institutional isolation will be provided for those who do not have suitable conditions for home quarantine (room with own toilet) and advised those who possess such facilities to perform self-quarantine in their residences.

It urged all those submitted to institutional isolation to stick to the instructions regulating this type of isolation so that they would not expose themselves or others to infection risks.

The Ministry has called upon all people to comply with instructions on social distancing when receiving returning passengers: Not to shake hands, hug or
engage in contact with them.


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Shops closed for violations

Oman Observer - 8 ore 27 min fa

Muscat: While warning against violations, the Muscat Municipality intensified inspections to implement mandatory closure of shops to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials from the municipality also continued their visits to ensure compliance of the guidelines issued to the eateries in the capital.

According to a statement from the municipality, a total of 4,354 commercial establishments were inspected in the Muscat governorate last week.

“Eight shops were closed and seven violations were detected during the inspections at various locations”, the statement posted online on Sunday said.

Also included in the inspections were 909 food stores, 1952 restaurants and cafes, 920 barbershops and salons, 30 gyms and health clubs, 403 laundry shops, 26 sheeshah cafes and 14 other shops.

According to a ministerial decision last week, violators of the decisions to close the shops and markets, will be slapped with a fine RO 300 in the first instance.

“Repeat offence will attract a fine of RO 1,000 and cancellation of the licence”, a statement issued by the ministry said.

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Electronic platform for buying fish

Oman Observer - 8 ore 31 min fa

Muscat: To facilitate the purchase of fish, the ministry of agriculture and fisheries launched an integrated electronic platform for the purpose on Sunday.

According to a statement from the ministry, has been unveiled in cooperation with the Oman Technology Fund to reduce crowding at the market places.

“The special platform, set up with the purpose of avoiding crowding of people, will enable them buy fish from the Central Fish Market at Al Fulaij through remote auction”, the statement said.

This will help reduce the risks of spread of COVID-19, it added.

In decision last week, the ministry closed down the fish markets in the governorates of North Al Batinah, South Al Batinah, South Sharqiyah as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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Now consult doctors online on Covid-19

Oman Observer - 8 ore 42 min fa

Muscat: Online consultations will be provided by specialist doctors on Instagram in light of the current health conditions in an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19.

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Medical supplies to be ensured: MOH

Oman Observer - 9 ore 20 min fa

Muscat: The Directorate General of Pharmaceutical Affairs and Drug Control of the Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued urgent measures to ensure the availability of medical supplies in the local market.

The measures will include ensuring adequate stock of medicines and essential medical supplies in the Sultanate and a permanent task team will guarantee
their availability in coordination with the private sector. The importing companies shall import additional quantities in line with the demands of the local market and ensure that sufficient stock to last at least
six months.

The pharmacies shall mandatorily notify the directorate in the event of a shortage or delay in the supply so that local drug factories to cover for any shortfall.

It is necessary to ensure the continued availability of masks and hand sanitizers at all pharmacies and shops, to be sold at fair prices with adherence to specifications.

There shall be continuous coordination between the directorate and the Public Authority for Consumer Protection to refer any violations to the competent authority for punitive measures.

The directorate responds to all reports and inquiries received from the public through the Ministry’s call center 24/7.

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Municipality begins disinfecting streets

Oman Observer - 9 ore 52 min fa

Muscat: The Muscat Municipality launched a campaign to sterilize and disinfect streets and roads in the capital as part of precautionary measures to combat coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The campaign is part of our efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 and limit its impact on our health system”, the municipality said in its twitter handle.

The sterilisation is being carried out in accordance with the highest international standards, it said.

An official at the municipality told Observer that the civic authorities are committed to implement all measures necessary to face this exceptional situation.

“Different measures are being taken in cooperation with other authorities to maintain the highest level of safety possible to protect the health of the community”, he said.

To begin with, civic workers carried out a disinfection campaign at the residences of municipal staff followed by sterilization of streets in Muttrah on Saturday, he said.

Specialised teams from the municipality will use fogging and disinfectant sprayer machines to sterilise streets, various properties and assets in the capital.

The official called on the general public not to gather at places where disinfection operations are being carried out in the interests of safety.

Meanwhile, the municipality in a statement urged restaurants to roll out new measures to ensure customer safety.

“Restaurants should maintain required physical distance between customers, do not allow crowds to gather at the counter instead encourage cashless or contactless payment, drive-thru and take home delivery services”, it said.

Meanwhile, the municipality department in Bowsher initiated action against shops in Al Khuwair commercial area that did not comply with the closure decision as a prior precautionary measure to curb Covid-19.

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Scheduled flights in Oman suspended until further notice

Oman Observer - 9 ore 57 min fa

In line with the recent decisions issued by the Supreme Committee on Covid-19, all scheduled domestic and international flights to and from the Sultanate’s airports have been suspended until further notice.

Speaking to the Observer, an official Oman Airports confirmed the closure of the airports, except for services to Musandam Governorate and cargo flights.

The authority will continue to facilitate return trips for students and citizens even after this date, in coordination with the competent authorities. All arrivals will be also subject to precautionary measures and institutional isolation.

Consequently, Oman Air has suspended all passenger services to and from Muscat starting noon of March 29, until further notice.

Oman Air domestic flights to and from Musandam Governorate will continue to operate as normal. Additionally, Oman Air’s cargo operations will operate as normal too.

Travelers with valid tickets for flights during this period are expected to contact the respective airlines for change of dates, refunds or cancellations.

“This is a temporary suspension of our passenger services. We regret the difficulty and inconvenience this may cause, but it’s vital for us as the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman to assist in the country’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19,” said Oman Air’s Chief Executive Officer Abdulaziz al Raisi.

“We will prioritise the needs of our guests and employees as we continue to assess the evolving situation,” Al Raisi added.

“This is an unprecedented time for our industry, but I am confident we will emerge stronger from this crisis as we had successfully done so in the past.”

When its temporary suspension is lifted, Oman Air will take an orderly approach to restore its international services with a focus on safety, quality and meeting our guests’ travel commitments.

India has announced that all scheduled international commercial passenger services shall remain closed till April 14, 2020.

However, this restriction will not apply to all-cargo international operations and flights specifically approved by India’s Civil Aviation Authority.

Earlier, Air India Express announced the cancellation of flights due to the prevailing situation of COVID-19 and the travel restrictions until April 29.

Need not worry about visa expiry: ROP

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Musandam to receive rain

Oman Observer - 9 ore 58 min fa

Muscat: Musandam and other governorates in northern Oman are expected to have rain on Sunday and Monday according to the weather forecaster at Oman Met Office.

“The rain is mainly in Musandam,” the weather forecast said.

As per the general weather forecast, clear to Partly cloudy skies are expected over the governorates of Musandam, al Buraimi, al Dhahira, and north al Batinah with chances of isolated rain.

Mainly clear skies are expected over rest of the Sultanate with chance of blowing dust over the open areas of al Wusta and Dohfar.

Over most of the Sultanate governorates wind will be easterly to southeasterly occasionally fresh along the coastal areas.  The sea continues to be moderate to rough along most of the Sultanate coastal areas with maximum wave height range from 2.0 to 3.0 meters.

The Met Office has also cautions on poor visibility during the blowing of dust.

Clear to partly cloudy skies over most of the northern governorates with chances of isolated rain over Musandam governorate. Chances of low level clouds or fog patches are expected along the Arabian Sea coasts.  On Tuesday partly cloudy skies are expected over most of the northern governorates with chances of isolated rain over Musandam governorate and al-Hajar Mountains during the afternoon. Mainly clear skies are reported over rest of the Sultanate with chances of low level clouds or fog patches over parts of governorates of South Al-Sharqiya, Al Wusta and Dhofar.

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Covid-19 death in Italy surges past 10,000

Oman Observer - 11 ore 57 min fa

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy barrelled past 10,000 on Saturday, a figure that made an extension of a national lockdown almost certain.

Officials said 889 more people died in the previous 24 hours, the second-highest daily tally since the epidemic emerged on Feb. 21, and that total fatalities reached 10,023.

Confirmed cases rose by about 6,000 to 92,472, the second-highest number of cases in the world behind the United States.

Officials said the numbers would have been worse without a national lockdown.

“Without these measures, we would be seeing far worse numbers and our health service would be in a far more dramatic state. We would have been in an unsustainable situation,” said Angelo Borelli, the Civil Protection head who reads out the numbers daily to the media and an anxious Italy.

Italy, the first Western country to introduce severe restrictions on movement after uncovering the outbreak five weeks ago, has since increasingly tightened them, and hopes that they would be eased from next Friday were fading fast.

“There are elements that make us believe that all of the April 3 expirations of provision will have to be postponed,” Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli told Italian broadcaster Rai. Reuters


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