Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Oman extend lockdown of Muscat Governorate through May 8 to combat COVID-19. Further restrictions likely.

This alert affects Oman

This alert began 20 Apr 2020 16:27 GMT and is scheduled to expire 23 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Until 1000 May 8
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions, increased security

Summary
Omani authorities have extended the existing lockdown on Muscat Governorate until 1000 May 8 as part of their efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Authorities previously 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 closure of all educational institutions until further notice. Additionally, authorities 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.

Additionally, Omani authorities implemented internal movement restrictions, preventing travel between any of 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 in order to enforce the edict. Those exempt from the decision are:

  • Public and private sector workers whose presence on-site has been determined 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 measures already taken by the government in Muscat, 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;
  • Indefinite closure of all nonessential businesses except groceries, pharmacies, and medical facilities starting March 18. The government had already banned public gatherings and shut down 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; Omani nationals have been prevented 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.

Resources
World Health Organisation (WHO): www.who.int

Ministry of Health: www.moh.gov.om