Coronavirus: Oman announces two-week overnight lockdown

Case numbers are rising quickly despite a vaccination drive

The famous Muttrah seafront street in Oman. Saleh Al-Shaibany for The National
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Oman will impose a 12-day lockdown from 8pm to 5am starting on Sunday, the country's Supreme Committee for Coronavirus announced on Thursday.

All commercial activities will be forced to close during the period as Covid-19 case numbers rise sharply in the sultanate.

The change is an extension of measures brought in a month ago, including an evening retail curfew, which ends on April 3. Beaches were allowed to open last week and should stay open throughout the new night-time movement ban.

Since daily cases dropped to the low hundreds in August last year, Covid-19 has made a steady comeback. Earlier this week, Oman's undersecretary of health said the country was experiencing a third wave of the virus as he urged Omanis to come forward for vaccination.

"We need more people to come forward to take vaccines," Dr Mohammed Al Hosni said.

“They should not be worried about side effects. The vaccination is very safe.”

On Thursday, Oman registered 733 new cases of the virus and six deaths. Since the pandemic reached Oman in early 2020, 1,650 people have died from the virus, while 153,838 have contracted it.

Of those, 140,766 recovered, 92 per cent of the total.

Eighty-nine patients were admitted to hospital with the disease over 24 hours, taking the total number of inpatients in hospitals to 419, including 128 in intensive care units.

The supreme committee said the increasing number of infections in Oman will make the next month difficult. Ramadan begins in April, the second time the fasting period will occur during the pandemic.

“The period between April 1 and May 31, 2021, will be very difficult and critical for the sultanate, and we will take a series of comprehensive measures that may include complete closure or ban on movement,” the supreme committee said.

Omanis reacted furiously to the announcement of the night-time movement ban.

“What is the point of another lockdown? This is the third one in six months and the numbers have never really gone down," said Ali Al Balushi, 37, a primary school teacher in Muscat.

"The infection cases will not go down even if they order a lockdown for a month. It is not because people are going out it is because people gather in homes and farms in large numbers. They need more police patrolling the residential areas to clamp down on it."

Other Omanis say lockdowns are deepening mental health issues.

“I have been going through a depression for the last two months and this new lockdown is making it worse, said Fatma Al Hamadani, 23, a student at the Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat.

"I am not the only one, some of my relatives and friends are depressed as well. As it is, I am taking anti-depressant pills, which are not helping at all.

"What will stop it is the easing down of rules and regulations of coronavirus, which at the moment do not help anyone."