Coronavirus: Oman closes borders and halts all public transport

The Sultanate announced a series of new measures to begin on Thursday

This picture taken on November 29, 2018 shows a view of the city of Nizwa from the walls of the 17th-century fortification of the same name, about 160 kilometres southwest of the capital Muscat. (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP)

Oman is closing its borders and suspending all public transportation from Thursday following a decision by the country’s supreme committee on coronavirus, state media announced on Wednesday.

“As of tomorrow, only Omanis will be allowed to enter the country, and no Omanis will be allowed to travel abroad,” WAF News wrote on Twitter.

During a meeting on Tuesday evening, the committee announced a raft of new measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in the Sultanate as countries across the Gulf impose further restrictions to curb the impact of the pandemic.

“A decision to stop all public transportation in the Sultanate, including "buses, ferries, taxis (microbus), with the exception of buses and ferries traveling to and from the Musandam Governorate and the state of Masirah from tomorrow, Thursday 19 March 2020 until further notice," The Ministry of Transport said in a Tweet.

The committee has also ordered markets, malls, restaurants, tourist attractions, mosques, sports centres and cultural clubs to close from midday on Wednesday. Conferences and other gatherings will also be suspended.Grocery stores, pharmacies, clinics and optical shops will remain open.

Oman Air has seen a more-than 60 per cent decline in passengers since the beginning of this month. Last Sunday, the carrier asked about 40 per cent of its staff to stay at home and take their annual leave.

With passenger numbers plummeting, Muscat Airport has closed one of its three passenger piers. A spokesperson for the airport said it is considering closing a second pier and leaving just one operational if the situation doesn’t improve by the end of March.

Oman has reported 33 cases on coronavirus, with 12 people recovering so far. The first two cases were confirmed in the country on February 24 and involved two Omani women who had recently returned from Iran, which is the worst-affected country in the region.

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, who recently took the helm following the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said last January, formed a supreme committee tasked with responding to the pandemic, which is affecting more than 170 countries worldwide with 208,221 cases confirmed on Thursday and a total of 8,272 deaths.