Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Oman announce easing of COVID-19-related restrictions April 28; some commercial activities to resume.

This alert affects Oman

This alert began 29 Apr 2020 04:50 GMT and is scheduled to expire 13 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions, increased security

Summary
Omani authorities announced April 28 that they would ease coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related restrictions and allow some companies to resume operations. Businesses permitted to reopen include money changers, vehicle repair workshops and rental offices, shops selling electronic goods, and equipment and machinery stores. Stores must, however, still adhere to health measures such as safe social distancing.

Oman previously extended the lockdown on Muscat Governorate until 1000 May 8 as part of its efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Authorities restricted most access into or out of Muscat's Muttrah, Ruwi, Wadi Kabir, and Darsait districts from April 1. Entry into and exit from the districts are only permitted for essential services and for Omani nationals and residents who carry valid identification proving they reside in the impacted districts. Authorities also extended the closure of all educational institutions until further notice. Additionally, officials have urged the public to avoid large social gatherings during the month of Ramadan (April 23-May 23) and will close mosques until further notice.

Omani authorities also implemented internal movement restrictions, preventing travel between the sultanate's 10 governorates from April 1, with certain exemptions. It remains unclear when authorities will lift the restrictions. Military and police personnel have deployed and established checkpoints along key thoroughfares to enforce the edict. Those exempt from the decision are:

  • Public and private sector workers whose presence on-site are determined as essential by their employers.
  • Ambulance and emergency vehicles.
  • Military and security vehicles.
  • Vehicles that transport foodstuff and necessities for citizens and residents.
  • Vehicles that transport construction and commercial materials, oil derivatives, and similar supplies needed in the public and private sectors.
  • Residents performing necessary travel between governorates, as assessed by checkpoint personnel.


The inter-governorate travel restriction is in addition to other measures already in place, including:

  • Suspension of all domestic and international passenger flights effective March 29, with the general exception of flights between Muscat International Airport (MCT) and Khasab Airport (KHS) in Musandam Governorate. Cargo flights are not affected.
  • A ban on public gatherings and closure of tourist sites, parks, and beaches.
  • An indefinite government ban on foreigners entering Oman via any entry point effective March 18. Only Omani nationals are permitted to enter but must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period; authorities have prevented Omani citizens from leaving the country since March 18.


Authorities could introduce new preventive restrictions, depending on the evolution of disease activity in the coming days and weeks.

Background and Analysis
Oman's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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