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Posted On: 7 May 2020 11:17 pm
Updated On: 15 May 2020 05:43 pm

COVID-19: Qatar enters peak phase of pandemic; MoPH calls on public to take extra caution

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In a press conference held Thursday evening by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), Dr. Abdullatif Mohamed Al Khal, Chair of the National Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of the Infectious Diseases Division at the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Dr. Ahmed Al Mohammed - Acting Chairman of Hamad Medical Corporation's Intensive Care Units, talked about the latest developments and statistics with regards to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Qatar.

Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal key messages:

  • The past week has seen some fluctuation in the new confirmed cases each day. This is expected at the stage as we enter the peak phase of the epidemic.
  • People should not focus too much on daily fluctuations in the case numbers - instead, we need to look at the general trend over a sustained period of time.
  • The number of people making a full recovery from COVID-19 in Qatar continues to grow.
  • This week we passed the milestone of more than 2,000 recovered cases.
  • The majority of patients with COVID-19 continue to experience only mild illness or remain asymptomatic.
  • Despite increasing numbers of positive cases of COVID-19 in Qatar, we have the capacity to isolate and provide excellent medical care at all levels for these patients, and there is additional capacity if needed in the future.
  • We continue to see a low rate of mortality due to COVID-19 in Qatar compared to the rest of the world. This is due to
    • 1) Qatar's young population
    • 2) Extensive testing and early identification of cases
    • 3) High-quality care including intensive care options
    • 4) Protecting our most vulnerable groups from catching the infection.
  • It is now more important than ever to follow preventive measures to ensure that the virus does not reach our at-risk group.

In addition, during the press conference, Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal mentioned the following:

  • It has been 59 days since the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in Qatar and it has started to increase in the last three weeks. The first day of the spread of the Corona epidemic in Qatar among non-travel residents is March 8.
  • We entered the peak phase of the epidemic a few days ago. It is expected that the number of infections will increase in the coming days before it begins to decline.
  • Fluctuation in the daily rate is possible and we expect it to continue before the stage of stability and decline.
  • Most of the infections in the Coronavirus in Qatar are between the ages of 29 to 34 years, followed by the age group between 35 to 44 years, and the infections are limited among adults.
  • There is an infection rate of coronavirus among children, and in its entirety, it is very mild or without symptoms.
  • 53% of the patients in intensive care do not need respirators and there is a limited number who need membranous oxidation devices outside the body and they are only 5 cases.
  • Most of those who were admitted to intensive care suffer from chronic diseases and weakened immunity in addition to the elderly. And 1% of those infected end up in intensive care.
  • Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in Qatar, there are 328 cases that required admission to intensive care. 208 recovered and now only 109 is in intensive care.
  • Care must be more than before to avoid contact with others and not leave the house except for necessity while adhering to precautionary and preventive measures such as wearing masks, washing hands, and avoiding gatherings.
  • There is a focus on improving workers' healthy culture regarding coronavirus prevention.
  • The preventive and health measures that are being implemented in the industrial zone are still ongoing even with the gradual lifting of the ban.
  • The procedures that are applied in the industrial zone are divided into 3 levels, which are related to public health, which is the early detection of injuries, the investigation of contact cases, their quarantine, and the isolation of cases that are confirmed to be infected.
    • The first relates to public health such as early detection of infections and the investigation of contact cases and placing them under quarantine, and isolate the infected cases, which are continuous measures and are considered an essential pillar to prevent the spread of the virus, but its density has increased during the past days.
    • The second level relates to public hygiene and adherence to health principles that prevent infection from diseases in general, including viral diseases, and the Ministry of Public Health focuses on it, such as improving living conditions and health culture among workers, as well as conducting random and repeated checks to monitor the extent of the virus, which reflects the extent of the success of efforts to reduce the spread of the disease.
    • Dr. Al Khal added that the third level concentrated in providing health services for residents and workers in this area, stressing that the coming days will witness the opening of a large medical complex that offers different medical services, emergency and outpatient clinics with different specialties and short stay and accommodates large numbers of residents of the industrial area and provides them with fast and free treatment.

Dr. Ahmed Al Mohammed key messages:

  • At the very start of the outbreak in Qatar, HMC put together a proactive plan to significantly expand hospital capacity across HMC.
  • The plan designated 5 hospitals as COVID-19 facilities: Communicable Disease Center, Hazm Mebaireek General Hospital, The Cuban Hospital, Mesaieed, and Ras Laffan Hospitals.
  • The expansion plan has seen HMC's total bed capacity grow from 2250 beds to a maximum of 4,860 beds if needed.
  • By dedicating hospitals as COVID-19 facilities we can not only provide better care for COVID-19 patients in a small number of locations but also ensure patients using other hospitals for non-COVID-19 services can do so safely.
  • We have also focused on expanding our Intensive Care Unit capacity to ensure we can treat the most critically ill patients. We have the potential to more than triple our normal ICU capacity if needed.
  • Across the healthcare system, our teams are working tirelessly to combat the spread of COVID-19. yet despite this focus, we continue to deliver many essential services as normal.
  • For example, our cancer, ambulance, heart, and emergency teams continue to deliver care to thousands of patients every day.
  • We want people to know that it is vitally important that they continue to seek medical care as and when they require it.

Dr. Ahmed Al Mohammed reviewed the role of hospitals devoted to facing and dealing with this pandemic, by allocating some of them as a first line. When the absorptive capacity is completed, the second line of hospitals will be introduced to deal with the infected and when its capacity is complete the absorptive capacity is the other, the last line of the reserve hospitals will be activated, including the Hamad General Hospital and the specialized hospitals, which were planned to be in the last frontline, he said.

He continued by saying we hope that we do not reach the stage of activating the last line, but this is the active plan to confront the spread of this disease.

The acting head of the Intensive Care Unit at the Hamad Medical Corporation explained that the preparations in the face of the pandemic in the first line hospitals necessitated an increase in the number of medical and nursing staff and the assistant medical staff, as the family in these hospitals was increased through a big shift in their number, indicating that these preparations were made on two fronts: the first is for non-critical cases, and the second is for critical situations.

As for non-critical cases, the beds have been increased in a way that is compatible with the number of those cases, which are more than the critical cases. As for the critical cases, the clinical capacity in the intensive care departments is increased in large numbers, he said.

Dr. Al Mohammed also reviewed the presentation slides and graphic models, explaining how to move from the pre-pandemic and post-pandemic situation in terms of the number of beds and absorptive capacity, as the number of beds moved from 2250 before the pandemic in Hamad hospitals all of them to approximately 5000 beds after the increase done to respond to the pandemic.

He noted a significant increase in the absorptive capacity at Hazm Mebaireek General Hospital, noting that the full allocation of the Hazm Mebaireek General Hospital to face the outbreak of the coronavirus was done by changing almost all of its units to be intensive care units, which is unusual and unprecedented, which requires a great effort to achieve.

Dr. Ahmed Al Mohammed pointed out that Hazm Mebaireek General Hospital was equipped with 221 beds to receive critical cases, noting at the same time that the hospital did not reach its full capacity of patients, as the hospital receives at its maximum 60% of its full capacity, while 40% remains in reserve.

He pointed to the entry of two hospitals to the service, namely Mesaieed Hospital and Ras Laffan Hospital, explaining that they were prepared from scratch, as they were equipped with the required equipment and beds and preparations are still in place for beds, as well as providing medical, nursing and auxiliary medical teams to deal with cases of Covid-19.

He continued by saying that the two hospitals were opened and patients were received there. In this way, the cases that reach the hospitals have been sufficiently absorbed, especially the critical cases, and the preparations are taking place in the best way without facing any difficulties to deal with the critical cases in the event of the lack of beds or others, but on the contrary there are more than 40% of beds in reserve to receive cases.

Regarding the cases that were introduced to the intensive care, the doctor explained that these cases are more than 300 cases, noting that these cases represent the cases in a cumulative manner, and the peak was reached in the end of April, when it was 109 cases and the number decreased after that, adding that it is too early to say that there is a decrease in the cases, indicating that there must be continued decrease so that this can be considered an actual and reassuring decrease.

The acting head of the Intensive Care Department at the HMC said that these cases were handled as more than 200 cases discharged from the intensive care unit, stressing that the challenge lies in providing medical teams specializing in intensive care, adding that is why a plan was developed to prepare doctors, nurses and staff and the assistant medical cadre to deal with this particular specialization, pointing to the availability of a sufficient number to deal with this increase in the number of beds and the number of patients.

Dr. Al Mohammed stressed the continuation of providing regular services with some changes required by the current situation, noting that Hamad Hospital and its affiliated hospitals are open to the public and receive cases, and that emergency cases can go to the various emergency departments.

He pointed out that the non-emergency cases have been postponed at the present time in order to provide medical teams that deal with cases of infection with the coronavirus in other hospitals.

As for the regular services provided during this period in hospitals that are not designated to deal with cases of Covid-19, Dr. Ahmed Al Mohammed indicated that there are medical consultations that are provided remotely amounting to more than 25000 consultations every week, pointing out that those services were not available before and are required to deal with the pandemic.

He added that the maternity teams have handled more than 400 cases per week, in addition to providing chemotherapy to more than 550 cancer patients per week, as the ambulance service responded to more than 5000 emergency calls per week, in addition to receiving 20,000 visits in the sections of emergency medical care, which indicates, however, that the services are provided as before and are continuing in full swing. He stressed that focusing on facing Covid-19 cannot prevent the provision of other services.

The acting head of the Intensive Care Unit stated that services provided through the number (16000), one of the new services imposed by the situation. He pointed to the need to spare those who need quick medical consultations or medicines from going to hospitals in-person to protect them from contacting others in order to prevent the possibility of an infection and the transmission of infection, adding this why this virtual service was provided to make available the services provided by the Hamad Medical Corporation and the Primary Medical Care Corporation as well as medicine delivery service, which is a new service, in addition to providing psychological support through this number either to the public or patients in hospitals as well.

At the end of his remarks during the press conference, The acting head of the Intensive Care Department at the HMC Dr. Al Mohammed reviewed the numbers and statistics related to benefiting from these services.

Source: Qatar Television; Ministry of Public Health; Qatar News Agency