Coronavirus: Oman faces daily challenge to make expats adhere to home stay rule

Coronavirus: Oman faces daily challenge to make expats adhere to home stay rule
Coronavirus: Oman faces daily challenge to make expats adhere to home stay rule

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Oman faces an uphill struggle to get the expatriate communities, mainly from the Indian subcontinent countries, to stay home as numbers of Covid-19 cases rise daily and foreign workers contribute over 60 percent of infected people.

Oman’s ministry of health announced on Sunday 86 new cases from which 71 are expatriates. The total number of infected people has now reached 1,266 out of which 831 are expatriates, mainly from three countries, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Seven people have died so far from the coronavirus, five of them are expatriates, the Ministry of Health announced on Sunday.

“They (expatriates) live in dormitories of up to 20 people in a single room. A typical dormitory accommodation may have 20 to 30 rooms and about 400 to 600 of them under one roof,” Mohammed Al-Refai, 43, a construction engineer, said.

That has raised concerns in neighbourhoods, mainly in the capital Muscat, where most cases of infected people live.

“Not only do they live in crammed accommodations, the expatriates don’t respect social distancing at all. You can see them sitting together in groups talking in the backstreets without wearing masks, especially in the evening. I fear the number will go up if no one checks on the expatriate communities,” Jaber Al-Jabri, 28, a resident of the Al-Hail area of Muscat, said.

Ahmed Al-Saidi, the minister of health said on Saturday that Oman may well see 500 cases a day with 150 of the cases likely to require intensive care during the virus outbreak peak. He also said that the peak may likely be at the end of this month.

Dr Saidi also said that it was a challenge to control the spread of the virus within the expatriate groups. “Some expatriates,. especially blue-collar workers, live in groups in single houses. This makes it a challenge.”

Oman has already shut off half of Muscat with police putting up roadblocks, preventing a population of about 250,000 people travelling from the south of the capital to the north. The closed Wilaya of Muttrah, saw the first death of a 76-year old Omani shopkeeper who was infected by Italian passengers from a cruise ship.

The mostly deserted streets of Muscat are putting a strain on the health of both Omanis and residents. IT expert Khalid Al-Faisal, 39, says he is going through a bout of depression from the lockdown.

“I am not allowed to go to work. I am an engineer and I keep myself busy with pulling cables or fixing networks. Now, I cannot do it and my doctor last week prescribed me with depression pills,” Mr Al-Faisal, said.

A 46-year old Indian woman, who is normally active, was threatened with a fine when she was stopped by the police for jogging on the road.

“I have been jogging in the last 15 ten years and two days ago this policemen asked me to go home or I will have to pay a fine for being out. I understand the situation of the pandemic but we should be allowed to exercise or we will get sick,” Janice Mukawalla, a resident of Muscat, said.

Updated: April 19, 2020 06:19 PM

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