Muscat: Business owners in Oman expect to see an increase in commercial activities and sales, with the lockdown hours having been reduced.
The night lockdown and movement ban currently runs from 10 pm to 4 am, having previously been in effect from 5 pm to 4 am.
While the longer lockdown hours did put strain on businesses, particularly during the total lockdown during the Eid Al Adha holidays, there is optimism that more customers will walk into shops and other commercial establishments in the weeks to come.
Ashwin Sabnani is the co-owner of three restaurants in the country. Like many others, his business was impacted because of COVID-related restrictions. Now that he is able to keep his establishments open for longer, he is hopeful of earning more business. “The new lockdown timings in many ways seem like the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ashwin, who jointly owns Kesar restaurant in Ruwi, as well as 968 Food Studio and Jashn in Boushar.
“This will bring a much-needed boost to businesses, but can also enjoy the weekends outdoors, something we are all familiar with in Muscat.
“Restaurants were allowed to stay open for deliveries, but with limited staff,” he added. “Many of us were able to keep going, but it has been hard on the smaller establishments. The new lockdown timings are definitely a positive step.”
Of a similar opinion was Paul Steffens, the executive chef at D’Arcy’s Kitchen, a restaurant in Qurum popular among locals and expatriates alike. He hoped the new lockdown timings are the start of life returning to normal, especially with the country’s vaccination drive continuing to gain momentum.
“We welcome the shortened lockdown timings, as it gives us a sense of life before the coronavirus, but we still want to encourage everybody to practice social distancing and wear their masks correctly,” he said.
“It’s good to have a lively, vibrant energy in our restaurant again, and it’s nice to see regular guests and their families return to our establishment, as during the lockdown they mainly ordered take-out.”
The pandemic has also led to many in the country taking the decision to work from home, with some choosing to set up their own home businesses. Anfal Al Badia chose to set up her own design and printing operation.
She’d been hoping to see her designs on billboards ever since she was 17, and during the pandemic, found the motivation to set out on her own.
“Many customers approached me with very specific ideas about artwork they wanted in a distinctive style,” said Anfal, from Dhank in Ad Dhahirah. “In the free time I have found following my university studies, I decided to set up this project to make best use of my talent.”
Having now established herself well, Anfal designs plenty of greeting cards for weddings, Eid, and other important occasions, and is hopeful her business will grow further, now that the lockdown timings have changed.
With people increasingly turning to online shopping during the pandemic, Maysa Al Quraini also decided to set up an e-commerce store where people could buy what they needed. She is confident her business too will continue to grow, especially with online shopping now an integral part of people’s lives.
“My profits have grown to between OMR250 and OMR300 a month,” she said. “I was able to gain customers through a number of means: I promoted my business on social media, and my friends and family helped spread awareness through word of mouth.”
“Many people today are cautious about physically going to shops,” she added. “They are also afraid of contact with others, because it might lead to the spread of the virus, which is why people are more trusting of online shopping.”
Explaining how the decrease in lockdown timings would lead to more people visiting shops and boosting businesses was Dr Syed Mujahid Hussain, the head of department of the Economics and Finance Department at the College of Economics and Political Science at Sultan Qaboos University.
“In a hot country like Oman, people tend to only go out in the evenings, but with restrictions on movement previously coming into place at 5 pm, they were required to stay at home,” he said. “Only when they are outdoors will there be more of a positive impact on shopping malls, restaurants and general businesses, as they will experience an increased inflow of customers.”
Mujahid cautioned that it was important for people to take the vaccine as soon they are eligible, to help bring down the infection rates so that more steps towards normalcy can be taken. He also advised everyone in the country to follow the instructions of the Supreme Committee.
During its meeting on Thursday, the Supreme Committee noted a marked decline across the country, in terms of the numbers of new infections, hospitalised persons, patients admitted to intensive care, and deaths from COVID-19.
It stressed the need to maintain caution and stick to the protective measures. Such commitment and collaboration will lend strong support to the National Immunisation Campaign, which aims to steer the whole of society to safety in the face of the pandemic, and avoid further negative impacts like loss of life and social and economic repercussions.
To attain this goal, the Supreme Committee urges all those who have not yet taken the first vaccine dose of vaccination against COVID-19 to come forward and register themselves for immunisation.
The committee is currently studying suitable measures related to vaccination to secure public health, including procedures related to entry to public places, employing the services of the public and private sectors, and travel measures governing entry to the Sultanate.
On Thursday, July 29, Oman reported 322 fresh cases of infection, taking the number of people who currently have COVID-19 to 13,850. About 295,857 people have tested positive since the start of the pandemic, while 278,193 have recovered.
The disease has taken the lives of 3,814 people, reveal figures from the Tarassud+ COVID-19 monitoring app.