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Oman imposes new COVID-19 lockdown, travel restrictions

Highlights

Gatherings banned through Ramadan

Kuwait, Qatar also impose new restrictions

Dubai — Oman has imposed a lockdown to restrict travel and movement throughout the nights of Ramadan, effective April 14, in a bid to limit transmission of COVID-19, a statement on the Oman News Agency (ONA) said.

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From 9 pm and 4 am, the nighttime ban will apply to all commercial activities and prohibit the movement of people and vehicles. The decision also includes imposing a total ban on all types of gatherings, like Iftar-Sa'im, in mosques, tents or public assembling places, as well as all social, sports and cultural activities and any other group activities throughout the holy month of Ramadan, the report said.

There are exemptions for the movement of 3-ton trucks, the operation of pharmacies and the movement of employees in the health and media sectors who hold relevant permissions. Workers at oilfields, water and electricity emergency services, loading and unloading operations within factories and stores, wastewater tankers and filling stations operating in shifts, are also exempt from the ban.

Oman reported 3,544 new cases of COVID-19 on April 11, which is an all-time high for the Sultanate – according to the COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

Near the start of the pandemic, Oman Air, the Sultanate's national carrier, suspended all international flights on March 29. Several months of travel restrictions and lockdowns throughout the Sultanate followed. Some international flight routes were re-opened on Oct. 1 last year. However, air travel through the Sultanate had dropped in January by 77.5% year-on-year, the government recently said.

Additionally, last month Oman's Supreme Committee announced it had extended an existing travel ban on 10 countries, including Lebanon, South Africa and Tanzania, in its efforts to stem the transmission of COVID-19.

Oman's economy has been severely hit by the oil price crash and pandemic and is estimated to have accrued a deficit of 17% of GDP in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund. Revenues from the Sultanate's hydrocarbon sector account for about 80% of its national budget.

In March, Oman pumped 740,000 b/d, according to the S&P Global Plats OPEC survey, which is slightly above its quota of 732,000 b/d.

Elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, Kuwait and Qatar have also recently introduced measures in efforts to grapple with the pandemic.

Earlier in April, Qatar announced a reintroduction of lockdown measures that saw the banning of most indoor activities except retail and work. The small Gulf nation has seen cases rising over recent weeks, with 981 reported new cases on April 13.

In Kuwait, the government has imposed new restrictions to curb new infections over Ramadan. They include limiting the time of evening prayers to 15 minutes and banning all other activities at mosques, including fast-breaking banquets. Kuwait reported 1,544 COVID-19 cases on April 13.