Muscat: Locals and expats in Oman have been reminded to follow the rules put in place by the government to stop the spread of COVID-19, owing to the strain that is being put on the medical system due to high case numbers.
Dr Zaid Al Hinai, a consultant on paediatric infectious diseases at Sultan Qaboos University, said that everyone in the country needed to abide by the rules for the number of cases in Oman to come down.
“Now, we are talking about 1,000 to almost 2,000 cases a day, which is a really high number,” he explained. It is putting an immense strain on the healthcare system, the ICUs across the country are full, and the number of daily deaths is now averaging 10 people, and it might go up further, so we have moved in the wrong direction.”
Al Hinai, who is also an associate professor at SQU, added: “The course of the pandemic is hard to predict. During the month of Ramadan, I think there were a lot more family visitations and that contributed to the spread of the cases, but people did not anticipate it would be so much. When we are with family, we let down our guard, we are in our comfort zone, so we may not think of this kind of situation with the same sort of care we do when we are out shopping or we are at work.
“We really need to focus on what we are doing when we are visiting family members,” added Al Hinai. “This can be done safely... we have to decrease the number of visits, and the number of people per each visit have to be really limited. When you go to visit family, keep distance, wear masks, and don’t take anything for granted.”
Ahead of Eid Al Adha, which is on the 30th of July, the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19 has put in place new lockdown measures that will run from 25 July to 8 August, and Al Hinai said this was to reduce the number of family visits that are likely to take place, as part of the traditional celebrations.
“During the month of Ramadan, people started to loosen the restrictions they were putting on themselves, with respect to social distancing, so we are seeing an increase in transmission,” he explained. “I think one of the hallmarks of our problem in the Omani society is family visitations: we are a very family-oriented culture, which is a wonderful thing, but as far as controlling the spread of the pandemic, family visits have contributed a lot to the spread. We need to take a lot more precautions as far as family visits are concerned, and there are a lot more things we need to bring under control.
Asked if not following the rules put in place could lead to an increase in cases over Eid Al Adha, Al Hinai said: “It is very much possible that we will see another spike or increase in cases, and that is why I think we have to prioritise safety and minimise visits. Eid greetings can be done over the phone, and over video conferencing. If we do not pay attention, this could get even worse.”