Don't call 999 for Covid-19 info, contact dedicated hotline on 16000; Facemask 'should only be worn if a healthcare professional recommends it'
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has advised people not to call the emergency number -- 999 -- to obtain information on the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) or seek medical assistance related to it. For all questions and enquiries related to Covid-19, members of the public should call the ministry's dedicated hotline on 16000, the MoPH has said in an advisory.
The ministry has issued a series of infographics highlighting various aspects of Covid-19 and the situation in Qatar, as well as offering advice to the public on what to do to stay safe. "The 999 number is for medical emergencies requiring immediate medical attention and transfer to an emergency department. The Ambulance Service’s medical despatchers receive hundreds of 999 calls each day from members of the public with urgent medical conditions. The 999 number must be prioritised for these life-threatening situations," the advisory noted.
Healthcare professionals as well as the general public can contact the toll-free call centre number (16000) to obtain information on the virus. This includes information on what coronavirus is and how Qatar is affected, signs and symptoms of coronavirus, what to do if a person suspect s/he may be at risk, and advice on travelling to China and other affected countries.
The advisory explains that Covid-19 is a respiratory virus that spreads primarily through contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets generated when a person, for example, coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. "It is important that everyone practises good respiratory hygiene. For example, sneeze or cough into a flexed elbow, or use a tissue and discard it immediately into a closed bin. It is also very important for people to wash their hands regularly with either alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water," it states.
People with Covid-19, the flu or a cold typically develop similar respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough and runny nose. Even though many symptoms are alike, they are caused by different viruses. Because of their similarities, it can be difficult to identify the disease based on symptoms alone.
That’s why laboratory tests are required to confirm if someone has Covid-19, the ministry points out. Unless the person experiencing these symptoms has travelled to China and other affected countries in the last 14 days, there is almost no risk of them having Covid-19, it adds.
Common signs of Covid-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. As the virus becomes more severe, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
"If you experience these symptoms AND you have travelled to China and other affected countries in the last 14 days, you should go to your nearest healthcare facility immediately or call the national Covic-19 hotline on 16000 for further assistance," the advisory states. Although there are no specific measures that the public should take at this time, people are reminded of the need to follow standard infection prevention and control measures. These include regular hand hygiene and covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, especially as other respiratory viruses are common during the winter.
People should also avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. The MoPH has urged people to follow the following good practices to protect everyone from infection:
* Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available and if your hands are not visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
* Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use your flexed elbow. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can, and immediately practise hand hygiene.
* Contact your nearest healthcare provider if you have fever and either cough or difficulty breathing, along with a history of travel to China and other affected countries.
The things to avoid are:
* Close contact with people who have travelled from the areas experiencing an outbreak or those who show cold or flu-like symptoms.
* Eating or drinking uncooked animal products, including raw meat, eggs and milk.
Regarding the use of masks, the advisory states that "wearing a medical mask can help limit the spread of some respiratory diseases. However, the Ministry of Public Health does not currently advise people to wear a mask to reduce their risk of Covid-19".
A facemask should only be worn if a healthcare professional recommends it. It should be used by people who have been exposed to Covid-19 and are showing symptoms of the virus. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected, the advisory notes. One of the infographics also highlights the steps taken by Qatar to protect the population from Covid-19.
For more information on the novel coronavirus, one can visit www.moph.gov.qa, call 16000 or follow the social media accounts of the MoPH, Hamad Medical Corporation and Primary Health Care Corporation where any new updates will be posted.
In a video message, Sheikh Dr Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani, director of the Public Health Department at the Ministry of Public Health, said as of March 4, there were eight confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Qatar. All of these patients had come from Iran on the same plane and quarantined in the same place, he noted. All of these people were tested and "we found only eight cases till now", the official said, adding that the other cases tested negative and would be checked again before they complete the quarantine period to ensure that "there are no cases coming into the community".
He assured that those who tested positive have not had any contact with members of the community and are being treated at the Communicable Disease Center, Hamad Medical Corporation.
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