Muscat: Speeding up vaccination distribution across Oman will help prevent taking drastic measures such as the on-going closure of businesses at night time, and help the economy recover faster from the impact of COVID-19.
Economists in the country say that measures that prevent businesses from operating during regular working hours will hurt them, and have suggested awareness campaigns be run urging locals and residents to take the vaccines available in the country as soon as they are able to.
Many businesses are currently required to close operations between 8pm and 5am, according to decisions issued by the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19. The measure began on Thursday, March 4, 2021 and is expected to end on Saturday, March 21, 2021.
Restaurants and cafes are also required to close early, although delivery services are allowed after 8 pm.
However, pharmacies, health centres and fuel stations will remain open.
“This is likely one of the fastest possible ways to accelerate the economy in the short-term,” said Dr Mohammed Al Wardi, an economist and academician in the country.
“Accelerating the vaccine drive will help because the percentage of population vaccinated in Oman is very low compared to other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).”
“Measures such as the ones requiring businesses to close at night will only weaken the economy further, and it is already facing challenges owing to the ongoing debt, and initiatives being taken to improve the country’s fiscal balance,” he added.
Despite the efforts from the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, incidents of infection among people continue to rise in the country. An additional 426 new cases and three deaths from the disease were reported on Wednesday, March 10, according to the Ministry of Health’s Tarassud COVID-19 monitoring app.
According to the Royal Hospital, a large number of new infections have been seen among younger people.
Khalfan Al Touqi, another economic analyst, said there were three levels of precautions that could be taken to stimulate the economy, with vaccinations being the best way to protect people from the virus and to help improve the current circumstances.
“The first level should involve increased vaccinations along with intensifying media awareness campaigns run by various government and private agencies asking people to take the vaccine,” he said.
“At the same time, they must be informed of the dangers of not taking it has to them and others. If they don’t take the vaccine, then maybe they should not be allowed to travel, walk about freely in places such as malls, enter public institutions to get work done, or even go to work and do their jobs normally.”
“The second level of measures involves ending the closure of all industrial and commercial activities, as well as facilities such as seaports and airports, while the third type of measure should involve tougher penalties for those who violate the decisions of the Supreme Committee,” he added.
Al Touqi said, “The awareness messages must also explain to people the continued impact the coronavirus will have on the health and safety of our citizens and residents, and its effects on the Sultanate’s economy.
“The economy will only face more risk if measures such as closure of commercial and industrial activities are taken, as well as vital infrastructure such as airports and seaports are closed, and lockdowns are brought in.”
He went on to say that the government has already done a lot to inform people about the dangers of the virus, and people who continue to ignore their advice are doing so under their own will, but are posing a danger to themselves and others.
“Everyone knows of the health risks of the pandemic, and the economic impact on Oman and other countries around the world,” he explained. “Should someone not comply with the rules, he exposes himself to health problems, along with the possibility of infecting someone else, including his family members and relatives, which could lead to their deaths.”
“We don’t want a repetition of 2020, which saw the closure of so many activities and a jump in the number of infections,” Al Touqi revealed.
“Although the Supreme Committee has called for the closure of businesses between 8pm and 5am, this does lead to people gathering in each other’s homes because they cannot go anywhere else.
“Foreign workers might gather in each other’s residences, while Omanis might choose to meet at farms and other such areas, which is what contributes to the rapid spread of COVID-19,” he said. “I hope the Ministry of Health specifies fixed dates by which the target groups receive their vaccines, as there are currently a lot of people who wish to take the vaccine, but do not fall within these groups.”
“I would suggest the concerned authorities make it possible for everyone to take the vaccine, so that people can take them as and when they feel they need to,” Al Touqi further said.