A press conference was held by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) on 9 May 2021, to discuss the latest developments related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Qatar.
Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation announced the following during the press conference.
A reduction in the number of daily cases
- In recent weeks the combined impact of COVID-19 restrictions and increasing vaccination rates, and the overwhelming support of the community, has resulted in a consistent reduction in the number of new daily infections in the country.
- However, we still need to be cautious as we are not out of the second wave yet and we are still dealing with two highly contagious and highly virulent strains of the virus that are actively circulating in the community.
COVID-19 cases among returning travelers
- With the number of community cases declining, infections from returning travelers now make up a larger proportion of the total daily cases
- The data shows that around 2-6% of returning travelers test positive.
- This rate of infection is not abnormally high and is consistent with rates that we would expect to see in people returning from multiple countries.
- Our quarantine policy for anyone entering Qatar has been one of the strictest of its kind in the world and proved to be effective in detecting those infected and quickly isolating them and delaying the introduction of new variants into Qatar.
The National COVID-19 vaccination program
- The National COVID-19 Vaccination Program is progressing at a fast pace and more than 1.7 million doses have been administered since the start of the program.
- Qatar is among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of vaccine coverage for the size of its population. It is very encouraging that we are seeing clear evidence that the vaccines are protecting people from developing symptoms of COVID and becoming ill.
- A study undertaken here in Qatar and published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that for fully vaccinated people - 14 days after receiving the second dose - vaccination is 97.4 percent effective in preventing severe, critical, or fatal disease due to both the UK and South African variants.
- These statistics are very promising and give good cause to be optimistic about a return towards normal life once we have vaccinated around 0-90% of the eligible population in Qatar.
4 phase plan to gradually lift Covid-19 restrictions
- The plan to gradually lift restrictions will be delivered over 4 phases with each phase lasting 3 weeks.
- The date of implementation and the duration of each phase will depend on the epidemic indicators which depend to a great extent on the degree of compliance of the community members with the current measures, restrictions and guidance by the government.
- With the potential spike post-Eid a distinct possibility, the first phase of the lifting of restrictions is planned to start on 28 May - this will allow sufficient time to analyze the data and determine the impact of Eid.
More freedoms will be made for vaccinated people
- Unlike last year, we will be able to make more freedoms available to those people who are vaccinated where they will enjoy certain privileges before others.
- For the past 15 months, we have lived under the threat of COVID-19 - this virus has negatively impacted the lives of each and every one of us in some way, either directly or indirectly.
- It is important to acknowledge how much we have achieved and how much we have sacrificed to get this virus under control.
- So, while I understand that many people may be eager to begin the lifting of restrictions as soon as possible, I ask you to please be patient.
- It is vital that we do not claim victory against this virus too early - with the new, highly transmissible variants in the community, there is still the potential for the virus to gain momentum and for numbers to rise.
Source: MoPH press conference
Cover image: Qatar Television
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