Oman suspends arrivals from the Philippines and Egypt

Decision comes amid growing concern over new strains of the virus, which are spreading globally

The Muttrah Port, Muscat. Saleh Al Shaibany for The National

Oman's supreme committee for combating coronavirus on Tuesday suspended all travel from the Philippines and Egypt from May 7 until further notice, state Oman News Agency said.

The supreme committee said the decisions were made because of the global surge of infections by the new strains of coronavirus, which are linked to travelling and the subsequent increase of similiar cases in the sultanate.

The number of countries under the arrival ban to Oman is now 16, including Lebanon, UK, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan, Brazil and Nigeria.

Diplomats, residents and health workers and their families are exempt from the decision, according to the agency.

Abdulmageed Muhammed, 36, an Egyptian expatriate in Oman, said his parents were going to join him for the Eid holiday next Tuesday.

"I am very disappointed that I will not spend Eid with my parents. It would be the first time in my life they are not with me for Eid. This decision came suddenly without prior notice and I will have to call them today to tell them the bad news," Mr Muhammed, who teaches Arabic in an elementary school in Muscat, told The National.

Filipinos living in Oman were also disappointed at the new arrival ban that will affect their country.

“My wife was coming back to Oman after the Eid holidays on May 17. She left only last week. She does not know yet that she might not be back for a long time. It is difficult for me to arrange another flight at such a short notice,” said Angelo Ramos, 31, a mechanical engineer.

Oman is struggling with a surge in Covid-19 case numbers and the latest travel restrictions reflect that, according to medical practitioners.

"I am not surprised that the government is restricting entry to Oman by adding more countries to the ban list. We have enough problems of rising cases, especially last month," said Dr Rahma Al Shikeili, a doctor in Al Nahdha Hospital.

"The supreme committee appears to be determined to keep the numbers down in May with the new restrictions announced lately," she said.

Oman on Monday also imposed a new, longer night-time lockdown between 7pm and 4am, which will be in place from May 8 to 15 to replace the current 9pm to 4am lockdown.

Oman's Ministry of Health figures show that the number of people being admitted to hospitals with Covid-19 increased by 59 per cent in April, with 821 patients treated compared with 515 in March.

The total number of deaths increased from 108 in March to 343 in April.