A senior official said on Monday that out of more than 350,000 students and over 35,000 teachers in Qatar, less than 0.2% have tested positive since schools reopened on September 1.
Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation, made the observation at a press conference yesterday with Mohamed al-Bishri, media consultant for HE the Minister of Education and Higher Education's Office.
"Both here in Qatar and around the world children, continue to be at very low risk of serious symptoms," the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said in a statement, quoting Dr al-Khal.
He said children continue to be at "very low risk" of serious symptoms both here in Qatar and around the world.
"In nearly two weeks since students returned to school, we have identified a small number of positive cases among children and teachers," he said. "Our track and trace teams have found that these positive cases did not catch the virus when attending schools — they caught the virus mainly at home during social gatherings."
"While any new case among children is of concern, it is important that we put this into context," the official continued, while also stressing the need to "consider the big picture and review the data as a whole".
"Out of more than 350,000 students and over 35,000 teachers in Qatar, less than 0.2% have tested positive since schools reopened," he added.
Dr al-Khal said the phased approach to reopening public places was working well. He said, "As we have seen with the return to malls, mosques, workplaces and offices, if people adhere to the preventive measures and follow the official advice, we can safety return to normal life.
"The same is true for the opening of schools — as long as people adhere to the preventive measures the risk of contracting Covid-19 is very small.
"All preventive measures are in place to keep children safe while at school."
For school transportation, parents are advised to use their own vehicles, even though school bus drivers and attendants follow all the necessary safety procedures. Each student is allocated a seat on a bus and drivers had been quarantined for 14 days before the start of the school year.
Some 640 field inspection visits have been conducted at schools to ensure their compliance with the relevant regulations, he said, noting that all schools have standard isolation rooms.
The MoPH, in co-operation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, is closely monitoring the situation. Checks will go on at schools and children will be tested for Covid-19 through the new saliva-based system, which was announced on Monday.
Some schools and classes were suspended due to the detection of cases but their numbers are limited, the official said. The percentage of schools that were shut down due to cases doesn't exceed 1.5%, he added.
He advised parents to be careful in order to prevent their children from having any unnecessary interactions with others.
The necessary protective measures have been implemented and sanitisation equipment provided in all public and private schools across the country. Teachers have been assigned safe areas to move in classrooms to avoid being in close proximity to students.
People should not listen to rumours and obtain information from authentic sources only, he advised.
Al-Bishri said the attendance at public schools was 80% of the permitted capacity during the first two weeks since reopening.
Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation, on Monday said Qatar passed the peak of Covid-19 infection in May and June with recurrent small waves appearing later due to the failure of some to abide by the precautionary measures, especially due to family gatherings and visits.
So, people should take due care and follow the precautionary measures to protect the vulnerable, he said.
The recent small increase in infections was mainly due to non-compliance with the relevant recommendations, especially in public places, the official said.
From August 1 to September 12, around 8% of the people who were checked tested positive, he continued. "Without the full co-operation of all and their full commitment, we cannot achieve better results," Dr al-Khal added.