In light of the continuing spread of novel coronavirus worldwide, and with efforts undertaken by the Sultanate of Oman to curb this unprecedented pandemic and try to contain and mitigate its effects, the leadership considered to strengthen the criminal protection and activate new legal rules that serve the public interest and complement the decisions of the Supreme Committee for Dealing with COVID-19 and other health instructions.
To this effect, Royal Decree No. (32/2020) was issued to amend certain provisions of the Law on the Control of Communicable Diseases promulgated by Royal Decree No. (73/92). The new Decree replaces some provisions and adds new ones.
The Royal Decree provides for a number of rights and responsibilities of treating doctors, patients or persons suspected of being infected with any communicable disease listed in Section I of the Schedule attached to the Law.
The Decree provides for that the doctor treating any person infected with any communicable disease listed in Section I of the Schedule attached to the Decree shall provide him with the necessary advice, make him aware of the nature of his disease and the methods of its transmission, and inform him of the measures and guidance that he must follow to limit the transmission of the infection to others.
In this respect, the law required that patients be made aware of his disease in order to take the necessary to protect others and in order to sense the severity of this disease and know the sanctions imposed in case of any violation of provisions of law. Sensitizing patients about the disease is paramount and ignorance might expose his life and lives of others to danger. This makes treating doctor the most competent person to provide medical advice and guidance.
In respect of rights of persons infected with any communicable diseases listed in Section I of the schedule attached to the Law:
- They are entitled to receive medical care and treatment in government treatment facilities in accordance with the rules specified by the Minister of Health (article 5bis).
- They are entitled to strict confidentiality and non-disclosure of their data and information except in cases stipulated under the law, or with their written consent. Therefore, it is prohibited to stigmatize those infected or divulge their places of residence or any information related to them (article 5bis1).
On the other hand, patients and persons suspected of being infected with a communicable disease listed in Section I of the Schedule attached to the law have obligations and responsibilities under the said Law, namely:
- A person infected, or suspected of being infected with a communicable disease listed in section I of the schedule attached to the law shall immediately go to the closest health establishment to undertake medical examination, receive treatment and advice, be made aware of the dangers of the disease and the methods by which it is transmitted. If the said person (infected, or suspected to be infected) fails to do so, he shall be subject to criminal liability (as stated in article 5bis (3)).
- The royal decree states that the person infected with any communicable disease listed in section I of the schedule attached to the law provides the health establishment that undertakes his treatment with all the information and data of persons who came into contact with him within the period prior to his illness as determined by the Ministry of Health. If the infected person fails to provide the health institution undertaking his treatment with such information, then he is deemed to have committed a crime punishable by law (as stated by article (5)bis (4)).
- The law does not neglect the regulation of those coming to the Sultanate of Oman and requires that any person coming to the Sultanate, and who is aware that he is infected, or is suspected of being infected, with a communicable disease listed in section I of the schedule attached to the law shall inform the border crossing authorities of this immediately upon his arrival to them, and, if available, shall provide these authorities with all documents and records relating to his health condition. If he fails or refuses to do so, while he knows that he is infected, or suspected to be infected, he will be subject to criminal liability (as stated by article 5bis(5)).
In these continued efforts to combat the communicable diseases listed in section I of the schedule attached to the law, the Law does not ignore the scope of control and protection of those coming to the Sultanate of Oman and goes further to authorize The Ministry of Health to subject any person coming to the Sultanate from areas where a communicable disease, listed in section I of the schedule attached to the law, is spread to medical examination to ensure that he is free of the disease. The Ministry of Health may undertake appropriate procedures and measures including quarantining him and holding his luggage and personal belongings in the places it specifies, in coordination with competent bodies. (as stated in article 5bis (6)).
- The law also provides for that a person infected, or suspected of being infected, with a communicable disease listed in section I of the schedule attached to the law shall abide by the instructions and guidance prescribed to him by the health establishment undertaking his treatment.
It is prohibited for the person infected with any of these diseases – upon his knowledge of the infection – to engage in any behavior that leads to transmitting the disease to others such as deliberately coming into contact with others, trying to spread the disease through bodily fluids (mucus, etc.) on surfaces and door-knobs and any high-touch surfaces (as stated in article 5bis (7)).
The law concludes with a general provision and criminalizes the disruption or refusal to implement the precautionary measures to curb the spread of the infection or the transmission of the same to other, including measures decided by the Supreme Committee for Dealing with COVID-19 or instructions and measures imposed by a competent authority such as Ministry of Health, such as wearing masks, curfew, etc. Criminalization and punishment also extend to any failure to collaborate with entities in charge of the implementation of such measures. The provision also includes the punishment of any behavior involving the disruption or refusal to implement the measures for curbing the spread of disease or its transmission (article 5bis (8)).
In the context of criminalization and punishment, the Law imposed sanctions and penalties commensurate with the severity of communicable diseases listed in the Schedule. The Royal Decree No. (32/2020) has therefore, replaced punishments stated in Law on the Control of Communicable Diseases promulgated by Royal Decree No. (73/92) with more severe punishments. Articles (19) and (20) were replaced accordingly.
Article (19) states: “Whoever fails to report a communicable disease in accordance with the provisions of articles 2,3, and 5 of this law shall be punished by imprisonment for a period no less than 3 (three) months and not exceeding 1 (one) year, and a fine no less than 1,000 (one thousand) Rial Omani and not exceeding 10,000 (ten thousand) Rial Omani, or one of those two punishments.
Whoever violates the provisions of articles 5bis 3, 5bis 4, 5bis 5, 5bis 7, and 5bis 8 of this law shall be sentenced to the same penalty. If an alien is sentenced to a custodial penalty, his deportation from the country shall be adjudicated”.
Article (20) states: “Except for cases provided for in article 19 hereof, whoever violates any of the provisions of this law, or the ministerial decisions implementing it, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period no less than 1 (one) month and not exceeding 1 (one) year, and a fine no less than 500 (five hundred) Rial Omani and not exceeding 5,000 (five thousand) Rial Omani, or one of those two punishments. If an alien is sentenced to custodial penalty, his deportation from the country shall be adjudicated”.
Finally, BSA Law firm calls upon community members and residents of Sultanate of Oman to show solidarity with measures and procedures of competent entities, respect and take warnings seriously and be open only to valuable information so that together we can stop the spread of this disease and contain the pandemic with fewer losses inshallah.
Lawyer Omar bin Khalid bin Saeed Al Kharousi
Al Rashdi & Al Barwani Advocates and Legal Consultants