Oman’s health minister has called for tougher action against people and businesses breaking coronavirus restrictions amid a “staggering” number of cases in the sultanate.
The country has declared more than 45,000 cases since the outbreak reached its shores in February, and 10 new deaths announced on Sunday take the total toll to 213.
As some prepare to return to the workplace after the government allowed some businesses to reopen in April, the Ministry of Manpower has said it will increase penalties on businesses that do not adhere to social distancing and other safety practices.
The Ministry of Health will conduct spot checks to ensure the measures are enforced.
“I call on all officials in all government units to alert everybody and to report those who do not comply with the measures, Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Saidi said.
“[The Ministry of Health] has formed health teams which will visit offices suddenly and take immediate action against those who fail to comply.”
Although businesses and the government have a duty to assist in the eradication of the virus, the minister appealed to the public to play their part.
“We don’t want to threaten bylaws. We want you to be the law,” he said in a speech on Thursday. “We want you to look after yourself and your family and our community.”
He also urged Omanis to report those flouting the rules to authorities.
Oman will start a 10-week nationwide survey, including citizens and residents, on July 12 to analyse the spread of the virus. Blood samples to detect antibodies will be part of the data collection, the Ministry of Health said on Twitter.
“The numbers in Oman are staggering, they are scary,” the minister said last week, after the country recorded its biggest weekly surge in cases.
“Failure to stick to health guidelines can cause the transfer of the infection to people having chronic diseases or elderly people, causing severe suffering or even death in some cases. There is a need for tougher action for those not abiding by the guidelines,” he said.
In March, Oman began to introduce lockdowns in regions including Muscat, Dhofar and Duqm, and in some tourist towns, but since April it has gradually allowed commercial centres to reopen and lifted the lockdown in the Muscat region, which includes the capital.
Mosques remain closed, as do land and sea borders into the country.