Oman is planning to make vaccination against Covid-19 compulsory for government employees, the country's health minister said on Thursday as the sultanate struggled to bring down its infection rate.
“We will take legal action against workers in government institutions who refuse to take vaccination doses without a convincing medical reason. Private sector institutions may take the same approach,” Dr Ahmed Al Saeedi said during a weekly coronavirus meeting on the pandemic, broadcast live on Oman Television.
The decision is intended to contain the number of cases, the minister said, without specifying when it would take effect or what the penalties would be for not complying.
A spokesman for the national committee responsible for Covid-19 said that the government is considering suspension without pay as a punishment for workers and that it will encourage the private sector to adopt a similar policy.
“Those who are not working will be prevented from travelling, entering malls or dining in restaurants until they take their vaccinations,” he told The National. “When it will take effect and the rest of the details will be announced soon.”
There are about 191,000 Omanis in the civil service and about 256,000 Omanis are employed in the public sector.
Dr Al Saeedi said 1,226,293 of Oman's 4.6 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine so far. He added that another seven million vaccine doses are expected to arrive in the country by the end of September.
The Ministry of Health on Thursday reported 1,453 new coronavirus cases and 15 deaths over the previous 24 hours.
The latest numbers take the average daily Covid-19 deaths and infections this week to 23 and 1,620, respectively, compared with 38 and 2,166 last week, based on a seven-day average.
Civil servants urged the government not to force them to be vaccinated.
“Vaccination should continue to be voluntary and not a forced decision. I urge the decision-makers not to take drastic action against civil servants to force them to be vaccinated against their will,” Mohammed Al Kharoosi, 48, a civil servant in Muscat, told The National.
Retired Omanis echoed the sentiment.
“This is not right, forcing us to be vaccinated,” said Faisal A Siyabi, a retired gas engineer. “We are already depressed and to prevent us from going into malls will have a catastrophic effect on most people. If lockdowns don’t work, then they should not punish people for it.”
Oman will extend its coronavirus lockdown by three hours each evening to prevent people gathering in large numbers before and during the Eid Al Adha holiday.
From July 16 to 31, people must remain at home and shops must close between 5pm and 4am.
Eid Al Adha is expected to start on either July 19 or July 20, depending on the sighting of the moon.
The current lockdown, which began on June 2, runs from 8pm to 4am.