Oman closes land borders as coronavirus cases rise

Decision set to take effect at 6pm on Monday and can be extended for longer than week announced

Dubai, United Arab Emirates-  November 21, 2010 ;  Hatta border crossing between UAE and Oman .      ( Satish Kumar / The National )
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Oman is set to close its land borders for a week starting on Monday because coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing, the state news agency said on Sunday.

The restrictions are set to take effect at 6pm on Monday and could be extended.

The decision was made by Oman's coronavirus emergency committee.

"A large number of citizens and residents observe that the public are not adhering to health measures set by the state, for example, by not wearing masks and by holding gatherings with large numbers of people for social events, which has caused the spread of the virus," Oman's Supreme Committee said.

Authorities are concerned about the spread of the new coronavirus variant, of which the country recorded its first case this month.

The mutant strain that emerged in Britain was reported in Oman after a resident arrived from the UK.

Oman has recorded a total of 131,790 infections and 1,512 deaths since the pandemic started last year.

Of those numbers 124,067 have recovered so far.

The country has introduced an immunisation campaign using the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for its population of about 4.2 million.

It gives priority to healthcare workers who are on the front lines,  people over 65 years of age and those with chronic diseases.

The country has so far received about 38,900 doses, Health Minister, Ahmed Al Saidi said as he received his second shot on Sunday.

So far, 24,204 people have received their first dose and second doses will start on Sunday, the Health Ministry said.

Oman approved the vaccine on December 18, 2020.

Authorities have imposed strict health measures such as compulsory face masks and social distancing. Offenders are handed a heavy fine.