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No Omicron variant found in Oman, says senior doctor

Oman Tuesday 30/November/2021 00:10 AM
By: Times News Service
No Omicron variant found in Oman, says senior doctor
The seven countries named in the Supreme Committee’s decision today are: South Africa, Namibia, Bostwana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique.

Muscat: “We can definitely say that the new mutant Omicron has not yet been discovered in the Sultanate, and if this is done, the Ministry of Health will announce it,” a senior Consultant and Head of Infection Diseases Section, Internal Medicine Department at the Royal Hospital, said on Monday.

Away from the rumours and what some doctors are circulating in social media about cases of the new mutant Omicron, which was recently discovered in South Africa, Dr. Faryal bint Ali Al Lawatia, a senior Consultant and Head of Infection Diseases Section — Internal Medicine Department at the Royal Hospital, confirmed exclusively in a question to Times of Oman, “No case has been discovered so far, and as far as I know, there is no evidence of the presence of the new mutant so far, and in any case, the mutant is formed naturally, especially since the COVID-19 virus has the ability to mutate, these mutants can be registered anywhere and at any time, but the current mutant Omicron has a specific mechanism to detect it through PCR tests, and these mutants can be identified and if any case is discovered in the Sultanate it will be announced by the Ministry of Health.”

She continued, “PCR test is very important as it helps in discovering the Omicron mutant, and then genetic sequencing tests help in monitoring and confirming the mutant, if any.”

“In general and also to confirm the presence of mutants or not, some of the previous stored samples are referenced to verify the presence or absence of the mutated and the genetic sequence is analysed in it to find out if this type of virus was not previously recorded, which is what happened in South Africa, where a sample was sent to test  on November 9, 2021, and the genetic sequencing process took a while until this mutant was announced,” she added.

Dr. Al Lawatia said that there are measures taken by all countries to limit the spread of this new mutant, the most important of which is the epidemiological surveillance measures, where they raised the alert and increased precautions.

“The genetic sequence of the samples is also important in tracking the mutant in laboratories inside the country. They are sent to the laboratories of the World Health Organization, in order for these viruses to be shared so that this genetic sequence can be confirmed. Vaccination against the virus is important to limit the spread of this mutant,” she continued.

She explained the measures taken by the Ministry of Health to prevent the spread or presence of this mutation in the Sultanate: “The most important measure is epidemiological surveillance, where attention is paid to cases. We in the Sultanate have a significant decrease in the number of cases infected with COVID-19, so any increase in the number of cases here is the reason for this rise and more attention should be paid to tracking cases and doing genetic sequencing, and we must send clear messages on how we can avoid this virus: washing and sterilising hands, wearing masks, staying away from crowding, avoiding social events, good ventilation, vaccination against COVID-19 are the essentials that are important to eradicate any COVID-19 mutation.”

She added, “We expected an increase in the activity of COVID-19 due to the increase in the activity of influenza virus during the winter season, and this helps the spread of COVID-19 virus when suffering from influenza symptoms. As the protocol for diagnosing cases of COVID-19 was reviewed so that all health workers have the ability to find out whether this infection is due to influenza or the COVID-19 virus, and accordingly it is known if there is a specific activity causing increase in cases of Covid 19, and as such other precautionary measures are taken to limit the spread.” The Oman News Agency, (ONA) said in a statement that as part of its ongoing convening, the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from coronavirus pandemic has followed up updates about the pandemic, measures to protect the public against it and to curb its spread.

The Supreme Committee studied reports on the epidemiological situation of Covid-19 at the local and international levels. In particular, the committee observed the fresh outbreak of Covid in some countries around the world and the related spate in infections and deaths. The Supreme Committee reviewed reports on the spread of a new, mutated and more dangerous variant of COVID-19 in a number of African countries.

To protect society against the disease and to safeguard the gains made in Oman over the past period—which include major decline in the number of infections and hospitalised patients, the Supreme Committee decided to ban entry into the Sultanate of Oman for travellers arriving from seven African countries or any arrivals from any other country if they happen to have passed through these countries within the past 14 days prior to applying to enter the Sultanate of Oman.

The seven countries named in the Supreme Committee’s decision today are: South Africa, Namibia, Bostwana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique. The travel ban is in place from 8 am on Sunday 28 November 2021, till further notice.

The travel ban decision exempts Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families and citizens of the above-mentioned countries who have valid residency status in Oman.

All those exempted from the travel ban decision—including Omani citizens, will have to undergo PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test upon arrival, as well as a 7-day institutional quarantine and a repetition of the PCR on the 6th day. The Supreme Committee urges Omani citizens and residents to avoid travelling during this period, unless it is extremely necessary to do so.

Meanwhile, the Oman cricket team is flying back to the country since the tri-cricket series has been called off due to the outbreak of COVID-19 omicron variant in South Africa.

“The team is following the necessary protocols and taking all precautions advised with regards to the COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. We are coordinating with the ICC as our team is flying back to Oman since the remainder of the Tri-series has been called off,” said Pankaj Khimji, Chairman, Oman Cricket.