The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has announced a set of updates to its COVID-19 testing protocol to enhance access to COVID-19 tests and ensure tests are processed in the most efficient and effective manner.
The updates come following a significant increase in demand for COVID-19 tests due to the third wave of the pandemic, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, and the large number of travelers returning to Qatar in the past ten days seeking post-travel tests.
The Ministry's COVID-19 testing updates include the opening of a Drive-Through Testing Center in Lusail and the approval of wider use of rapid antigen tests for specific indications.
MOPH has approved the use of COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) at authorised public and private centres for the following groups:
Rapid antigen tests offer a fast and accurate screening test to detect COVID-19 virus antigens in the individual. The tests require a nasal swab to be taken from the individual and the results are available within a short time. Those who test positive on a Rapid Antigen Test DO NOT need to confirm it with a PCR test. People above 50 years of age who display symptoms or are close contacts will be tested using PCR.
The change in policy to rapid antigen testing comes into effect on 5 January and will enable people who are eligible to have their positive or negative status confirmed more rapidly.
From January 5, rapid antigen tests undertaken at Primary Health Care Corporation health centres will have their results sent to them via SMS within two hours of the test and the results reflected in Ehteraz no earlier than 4 hours after the test. Rapid antigen tests undertaken in private facilities will be reflected in Ehteraz starting Monday, January 10.
Moreover, asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) close contacts of an infected case who have received the COVID-19 booster dose or second dose of the vaccine within the last 4 months, are under 50 years of age and have no chronic conditions have the option to take an antigen test if the individual requests. The Ministry of Public Health does not require them to be tested because they have very high levels of immunity from the virus. They should continue to follow the precautionary measures and wear a mask as per MOPH policy.
Close contacts who are unvaccinated, have not had the booster dose, or had their second dose more than 4 months ago, in addition to people aged 50 years or above and people with chronic conditions will be tested. A rapid antigen test for those under 50 years of age and PCR test for those aged 50 years and above.
MOPH Announces Updates to COVID-19 Testing Protocol. pic.twitter.com/zOOf6DLfxC— وزارة الصحة العامة (@MOPHQatar) January 5, 2022
Cover image: Shutterstock
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