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Lockdown, again!

Oman Monday 12/October/2020 21:18 PM
By: Mohamed Issa Al Zadjali
Lockdown, again!
Mohamed Issa Al Zadjali

After all, we have only recently come out of one. Countries across the world had mandated lockdowns, with a number of strict measures to restrict the rate of infection.

There are some who feel that bringing in another lockdown could stop the spread of the disease, when that didn’t even work the first time, but many families and businesses might not be able to bear the economic impact that comes with it.

Yes, while all of us stayed at home, the curve of infections was flattened, and the hospitals saw a much-needed decrease in the number of cases with which they had to deal.  But what of the cost?

Economies of countries all over the world – including Oman – will take many months, maybe even years to recover. There will be businesses that won’t recover at all: it pains me to see the number of shops that have been forced to shut down in our beloved Sultanate, closed because their owners know they can never recover financially, and restore the businesses to what they once were.

Unfortunately, the economic cost of enforcing a lockdown is far greater than the health costs hospitals have to incur, and while a lockdown may only last for a couple of months, the time taken for business to bounce back is far greater. Many countries simply cannot handle the costs of rebuilding their affected economies after a lockdown.

As a case study, let us look at what happened when Muttrah was closed off from the rest of Oman, once COVID-19 cases began to be reported there. Businesses suffered immensely, as a result of which they had to let go of people, they could not take care of their staff, depriving them of their livelihoods.

Consequently, they began facing several problems at home.  This is a story that has unfolded the world over and has caused concerns that a large majority of us are facing.

If another lockdown is brought in, Oman and other countries around the world that are currently looking at recession, could be heading for an economic depression, and that will sadly bring with it far worse consequences.

Since the start of the pandemic, Oman’s population has dropped to 4,480,333 in August 2020 from 4,645,249 in March 2020, according to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information, which shows you that nearly 200,000 people have left the country during the pandemic.

These are people who performed many essential services in the country. Their leaving will leave a big gap in terms of contributing to the economy, in terms of skills, talent, and the money they spend, and their departures will take time for us to recover from.  And who is to say how many more people, right now, still in Oman, are also preparing to leave at the first chance they get?

If you are sick, or do display the symptoms of COVID-19, please stay at home, isolate yourself, and when you are well, come back to work. Take responsibility for yourself and your community by not ignoring your symptoms.

A lockdown does not mean that the virus will go away, all it means is that we are staying away from it, and for how long can we afford to do that?
The virus is not like an unwanted guest or unexpected visitor who waits for a while after you don’t open the door for him, but ultimately goes on his way. Nor is it like an enemy army that decides to end its siege of a city because it has lost too many soldiers. For the foreseeable future, the coronavirus is here to stay, and we need to learn to live with it, but shutting down whole economies is not the answer. We MUST learn to live with the virus and learn how to stop hiding from it if we want our country to flourish and grow.

Look around the world, most countries implemented the lockdown for months, but when the countries opened back, the virus came back.  Unfortunately, some businesses never reopened.

It is very, very sad that more than a million people around the world, including 1,046 in Oman, have lost their lives because of the disease, but looking at the big picture, statistics from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine show that 37,563,225 infections have been reported around the world. Surveys from the United Nations put our latest global population statistics at 7.8 billion, which means the disease has infected less than 0.5 percent of people across the world.

Additionally, recovery rates from the disease are also quite high: the global recovery rate stands at about 70 per cent: more than 26 million of those infected with the disease have recovered. We know that the recovery rate in Oman is far higher, the Sultanate has seen 106,575 cases of infection so far, but the number of people recovered is about 93,222, or 87.4 per cent.

This means about 13,000 people are currently sick. The number of cases in our country is increasing, but the recovery rate is also rising in parallel.

However, a recent article from the United States’ Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has shown that only six percent of all of the 214,776 deaths that have taken place in that country were directly caused by COVID-19.

The remaining 94 per cent had other contributing criteria that led to the deaths of these unfortunate souls. Pre-existing health conditions such as hypertension, influenza, pneumonia, respiratory issues, diabetes, cardio issues, heart failure, dementia and renal complications all played a role in the demise of the others.

This shows us that in the face of this disease, we need our body to be stronger, we need it to be more resilient: our immune system is actually capable of evolving and becoming more robust if we do expose it to conditions that test it.

All of us, of course, do need to take proper precautions to stay safe from infection, but it is important to also know what they are.

For example, all of us wear masks today when we go out, in the belief that it will reduce our chances of getting the disease. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a medical mask is not required as no evidence is available on its usefulness to those who are not sick.

The WHO has only recommended it for people who do have symptoms of respiratory diseases, so that they do not transmit it to others.

Of course, there are some who might raise their eyebrows at this statement, but research has shown that wearing a mask over long periods of time lowers the level of oxygen in blood, the decrease being more prominent in older people, which causes the body to function improperly.

While the science on the mask seems to have mixed reviews, what is not mixed is the psychological impact on every age group during a lockdown.

In some countries, suicide rates have increased, divorce rates have increased, drug overdoses have increased, and domestic violence has increased.  Getting back to the mask, it is giving a false sense of security which is just as dangerous as the person who simply does not care at all.

People are quite rightly concerned about the second wave of COVID-19 hitting Oman, just as it has hit many European countries, but we must stop living in fear of it. The most important lesson that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is to put our health first. It is time we learn from it. We are not putting our health first by hiding from a virus.

Viruses do not go away.  We must learn to live with it. Prioritise what is important to you.  Most are likely to say it is their families that is the priority.  If so, take care of those you love and do so by improving their health.  We can always use improvement in this area.

And the stronger each of us becomes, the more resilient we become as a community against this virus and every other virus that is out there and will be out there in the future.

Through some rather simple techniques, we can bring balance to our health, which is the best way for all of us to stay strong, safe and secure.

COVID-19 has served as a wake-up call for all of us. It has taught us many lessons, the most important of which is that it is time for us to take care of our own health. Follow a healthy diet, exercise every day, get good sleep, and reduce the stress levels in your system: these will go a long way in ensuring you stay well.