Travellers defer plans after Oman changes COVID quarantine rules

Oman Saturday 13/February/2021 20:58 PM
By: Times News Service
Travellers defer plans after Oman changes COVID quarantine rules
Institutional quarantine has increased travel cost.

Muscat: Passengers flying back to Oman are postponing their trips, in the wake of new mandatory institutional quarantine measures introduced by the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19, which has made their trips a lot more expensive.

Travel agents have come up with quarantine packages for people arriving in the country, and although they are quickly selling out, people are being told to use their discretion while travelling overseas.

The Supreme Committee on February 10 made it compulsory for all new arrivals in Oman to quarantine in hotels in the country, for up to seven days, since many people have failed to follow the required precautions introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are required to take one PCR test on landing in the country, and a second after seven days.

“My mother was supposed to visit us next week, but I asked her to postpone her trip because it is far too expensive to travel now,” said Santosh Shetty, an Indian expat. “The flight ticket to and from Oman costs about OMR130, and that’s affordable, but there are many added expenses we need to take on board due to COVID-19.”

“She needed to take at least two PCR tests – one before flying to Oman and another after arrival, before this rule was brought in, but now she needs to take an additional third one, plus one more when she returns to India in a month’s time, so we’re looking at a cost of OMR100 for just PCR tests,” he said.

“Add to that the cost of this institutional quarantine, which will set her back at least about OMR125 to OMR150, so she needs to pay about OMR400 in total,” Shetty said. “We will wait for a while for some of these curbs to be lifted, as it is not worth spending thrice the cost of the flight ticket for her to come here.”

Shortly after the decision of mandatory institutional quarantine was made, travel agents in the country rolled out packages of different prices, depending on passengers’ spending limits. These include a week-long stay in a hotel, transfers from the airport to the quarantine facility, meals, travel insurance, and PCR testing and the removal of the tracking band all arrivals are required to wear, on the eighth day of their stay in Oman.

Majan Travel and Tours have packages that begin at OMR22 a day for a three-star hotel, OMR26 for a four-star hotel, and OMR43 for a five-star stay. Travel Point, a tourist agency in the country, has rolled out a package that allows passengers to spend their quarantine in a three-star hotel with prices that begin at OMR99. More expensive offers are available for those looking to check in to four and five-star hotels, said Faiyaz Khan, the company’s general manager.

“Our three-star package was sold out just two days after we brought it out, and we were working late on Thursday and through the weekend to make sure customers could finalise their bookings,” he said. “The Supreme Committee decision came quite suddenly, so a lot of people did have to reschedule their bookings, but there are some who cannot, and will need to enter institutional quarantine.

“We have an agent in Bangladesh who wants us to provide him 100 rooms a day for arrivals into Oman,” he added. “Demand for three-star rooms is very high, because even if people need to quarantine institutionally, they are looking for economical options.

“Right now, it is not advisable for passengers to come here, because it will be expensive for them,” Khan explained. “We have a number of customers who have asked them to inform us when these rules are removed, so they can make their plans then.”

A representative for another travel agent agreed with this view, saying, “companies might also choose to not immediately bring back many of their employees who have been sent on leave, because they will need to bear the costs of quarantining them on return to Oman. It is likely they will not grant leave to their staff until these regulations have been lifted.”

“If you have to travel now, do so at your own discretion,” she said. “Be prepared to spend on quarantine measures, however, because travel to Oman has now become a lot more expensive.”