COVID-19 Supreme Committee Decisions

On 10 March 2020, His Majesty issued a royal order establishing a supreme committee to overlook all matters relating to the pandemic caused by COVID-19 and granting this committee the power to issue decisions as necessary to keep the virus at bay.

Due to the urgent nature of the pandemic and the unpredictable projections of the virus, the manner in which the supreme committee is created and the mode by which it issues its decision is extremely unusual. Government entities, including supreme committees, are usually created by royal decrees. These decrees would, among other things, explain the duties and competences of these entities, and their structure or membership. Such decrees would also be published in the Official Gazette. This was not the case for the COVID-19 Supreme Committee. Furthermore, instead of the traditional approach of governmental decisions being published on the Official Gazette, the COVID-19 Supreme Committee has opted for publishing its decisions directly via Twitter in the form of images.

This approach has resulted in Omanis being able to access these decisions immediately and easily. Since the decisions are in the format of images, they can also be shared easily on other social media platforms to spread the message. However, using Twitter exclusively as the platform of disseminating such critical legal content is not ideal as the content of these images is not searchable and locating specific old tweets can be a nightmare.

Take the COVID-19 Supreme Committee decision on 19 August 2021—it is still valid as of the date of this post but it would be hard to know this. First, assuming you hold a valid Twitter account, you would need to go through 479 of the latest tweets of the @OmanVSCovid19 Twitter account to find this decision. Then, you would need to comb through these 479 tweets again to check if there were any later decisions that amended or repealed this one. 

Given the importance of the content of these decisions, the legal impact they have had on the lives of those living in Oman and even abroad, and the reality that the legal community is already dealing with contractual and employment disputes resulting from the implementation of these decisions, we have decided to launch a new section on Decree dedicated exclusively to making these decisions available in full text. If you are looking for a specific decision, instead of going through hundreds of tweets, you can now simply search on Decree for a keyword, such as “quarantine”, and restrict the results to Covid-19 Supreme Committee Decisions by simply ticking on its box in the search bar. This will generate a search result that has every decision containing this keyword.

How did we do this? We went through all 4,577 tweets of the @OmanVsCovid19 Twitter account and identified 79 of them as COVID-19 Supreme Committee Decisions, which we then converted into text and uploaded onto Decree.

It is also worth noting that until now, our policy on both Qanoon and Decree was to access legislation solely from the Official Gazette. The approach we have taken with the COVID-19 Supreme Committee decisions marks a fundamental shift from this policy to accommodate for legislative documents that are not necessarily published in the Official Gazette.

Finally, I’d like to point out that the majority of the English text of the Supreme Committee decisions published on Decree is not a translation produced by Decree, but rather the original English text made available on the @OmanVSCovid19 Twitter account. We have simply made the translations available in a machine-readable format (i.e. text format) for ease of access. That is why the translation of these decisions does not follow Decree’s usual standard or methodology. 

Feel free to browse through the decisions and if you have any suggestions for improvements, as usual, we’re all ears.

We will also continue to keep a close eye on the @OmanVSCovid19 Twitter account for future COVID-19 Supreme Committee Decisions and make sure to upload them on Decree in both image and text formats as soon as possible.

You can view the latest COVID-19 Supreme Committee Decisions on this link. If you are more interested in Oman COVID-19 statistics and data, check out Open Data Oman’s page on COVID-19.