Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), has called on all citizens and residents to follow the precautionary measures during Eid al-Adha, the official Qatar News Agency reports.
With the advent of Eid al-Adha, which coincides with the start of the third phase of the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, Dr al-Khal has stressed the necessity of strict adherence to the precautionary measures recommended by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).
These include wearing a mask, using hand sanitisers, physical distancing, avoiding crowded places and taking all appropriate and recommended measures to protect the elderly and people with chronic diseases from the virus.
He made the observation during a press conference organised by the MoPH yesterday evening.
The ministry said the announcement of Phase 3 of the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, which starts tomorrow, follows the positive indicators that show the success of Qatar’s efforts in addressing the pandemic.
The MoPH clarified the procedures for lifting restrictions related to shopping, work and praying in mosques, visiting restaurants and cafes, going to beauty salons, barbershops, gyms, wellness centres and travel procedures.
Regarding the status of the spread of the virus in the country, Dr al-Khal noted that the epidemic is currently retreating since recording the highest daily infections in late May. He added that the daily number of infections has been declining since the date to a range of 250-400 new cases a day. He noted that most new infections is among young people.
He pointed out that the last period witnessed a decline in the daily of infections, but at a decelerating rate compared with the first half of July. He noted that most of the infections recorded in the last week were among people aged between 25 and 44 years, while the number of infections for people above 55 years of age was limited.
He said that the average age of people who get infected in Qatar is 35, with a relative decline in infections among the elderly. He stressed that these figures indicate the success of the state and society in general in limiting the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable segments in society.
Dr al-Khal noted that the rate of infections among citizens and resident professionals was declining since the first week of July, but has seen a stabilisation recently. He added that many of the new cases were among families, with family and social visits being the main source of infection. He noted that the fact is a cause for concern due to the potential of having a rise in cases during Eid al-Adha. He said that a similar rise was recorded in the 14 days that followed Eid al-Fitr, due to the increase in social visits during the period.
He said that the MoPH conducts a relatively large number of tests on a daily basis to detect positive cases, pointing out that Qatar is one of the countries that conducts highest number of tests relative to its population, which contributed to the early detection of many cases. He added that the ministry has placed a plan that will see it carry out more proactive tests in various private and public sectors, and will be a key part of the plan to gradually lift restrictions and to have activities return as normal, which will contribute to containing the spread of the virus.
He also said that the MoPH is following many indicators that reflect the level of the virus’ spread in the community, the most important of which is the number of severe cases of Covid-19, who are admitted to the hospital, explaining that the number of these cases is declining in general, ranging from 40-60 cases per day compared to more than 300 cases per day during the peak period.
He also indicated that one of the most important indicators that the MoPH is following is the number of cases that go into intensive care, adding that this indicator was also seeing a decline. He pointed out that most of the cases that were going into intensive care are from the age group between 45 and 64 years, along with a relatively large number of young people whose conditions deteriorated, which necessitated moving them to intensive care.
He praised the level of medical services provided in Qatar, noting that it has helped limit the number of deaths to 165 so far. He added that deaths, while tragic, have been kept relatively low in Qatar compared with the rest of the world, reflecting the efficiency and quality of healthcare services.
He pointed out that the success of Qatar so far in the plan to gradually lift restrictions was an indication of the extent of co-operation by all members of society in limiting the spread of the virus in recent times. He warned however that the virus has not not completely disappeared and could see a comeback, citing many countries that have seen another wave of virus spread after easing of restrictions.
In this context, he stressed the need to take all the preventive measures during the Eid al-Adha and the start of the third phase of the plan to gradually lift restrictions. He stressed the importance of fully adhering to all necessary measures and precautions during the performance of prayers, social visits, shopping, while following strict precautions when visiting the elderly and people with chronic diseases. He also called for reducing the number of visits and gatherings as much as possible.
Al-Khal said that the decline in the number of cases confirms that the country is on the right track, and reflects the efforts of the Ministry of Public Health and the co-operation of the public. He added that the victory over the virus could be declared if conditions continue to improve at the same rate.
He stressed that failure to adhere to health guidelines will see a return of the virus followed by a rise in the number of cases, especially with the advent of an important religious and social occasion like Eid al-Adha.
He warned that entering a second wave will be dependent on the public’s adherence to the guidelines, especially as the virus has not gone completely. This is prompting the state to work on getting the vaccines as soon as they are available commercially.
Al-Khal advised against travelling this year, noting that changing surroundings makes people more susceptible to disease, particularly the elderly and people with chronic diseases. He added that if travel was a necessity, people should look to travel to low-risk countries and make sure to take all the necessary precautions and find out about the quarantining process. He noted that precautions would include washing hands, sanitising rooms, avoiding crowded and closed areas as much as possible. He also advised people to take the PCR test to ease procedures inside the airport in Doha.
Meanwhile, the Director of Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control at the Public Health Department in the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Hamad al-Rumaihi, also urged everyone to adhere to all preventive measures issued by the Ministry of Public Health.
He stressed that the transition from one phase to another is based on key performance indicators through which the current situation is evaluated as a result of the gradual lifting of restrictions, pointing out to the importance of continuing to strictly adhere to social distancing (at least 1.5 meters) , wearing masks, washing hands, or using hand sanitiser regularly in public places.
He pointed out that at this phase thermal screening, checking Ehteraz application’s health colour code, and wearing masks are mandatory to enter public places, while noting at the same time, that in the third stage, social gatherings are limited to 10 people indoor and 30 in outdoor spaces.
He added that participants in gatherings must wear masks, follow hand hygiene, maintain social distancing (1.5 meters), avoid any kind of physical contact, including shaking hands, and ensure adequate ventilation, and people who are over the age of 60, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions must avoid social gatherings, as much as possible.
With regard to mosques, al-Rumaihi explained that a specific number of mosques will be opened during the third phase to perform Friday and Eid prayers, while taking preventive measures such as maintaining social distancing (1.5 metres) at all times, and worshippers should also bring their own prayer rugs, as well as their own copies of the Holy Qur’an or use the phone apps to read the Qur’an.
Al-Rumaihi also advised people over 60 years old, who suffer from chronic diseases, to pray at home.