Stepping up its fight and surveillance against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and expanding the scope of early detection of infected cases, Qatar will soon introduce the rapid testing procedure "to test a large number of people in less time", a senior official of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said on Wednesday.

“At present, we are doing PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test which has 99 to 100% accuracy. Rapid test procedure is also being recommended to test more number of people. We are making arrangements to get the best available rapid test kits, mostly from South Korea,” said Sheikh Dr Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani, director of Public Health, MoPH.

“With rapid test facility, we can have more tests but the accuracy of the tests is lower compared to PCR and in some cases it is very low. However, we will soon introduce the most reliable rapid test approved by the (US) Food and Drug Administration,” explained Sheikh Mohamed.

The top official was speaking at a webinar organised by Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) on the topic ‘Infectious Diseases with Relevance to and Potential Impact on the Pandemic Covid-19.’

Dr Mohamed H Jarrar, senior manager, Biomedical and Health Research and Associate, QNRF moderated the session that was attended by leading scientists and researchers from various institutes in Qatar.

“We are working on to build more capacity for testing. Now we have started the use of new advanced laboratory techniques to detect the virus that can do around 2,000 tests per day. We have requested co-operation from Sidra Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine - Qatar (WCM-Q) and Qatar University for further co-operation for clinical testing. Some students from WCM-Q have agreed to join,” he continued.

According to the official, Qatar is in the right direction with the measures to flatten the curve in the spread of Covid-19.

“We have a proven track record in dealing with infectious diseases in the past and have had great control over them. Qatar Airways and the Hamad International Airport have taken all the stringent measures to avoid the spread of the disease. Best measures to contain the spread of the disease are in place all over the country,” he noted.

Sheikh Mohamed also noted that most of the Qataris found infected have travel history and they were all tested and isolated.

“The numbers are increasing because of increased surveillance and best early diagnosis methods. We have conducted over 22,000 tests as of Tuesday. The positive cases are only about 800 and our fight against the spread of the virus will be continued through more testing. Testing is the most important thing and we will continue the surveillance, conduct more tests and isolate the suspected cases. When we find any positive case, we trace the contacts and test them,” he highlighted.

Sheikh Mohamed also said that most of the affected cases are in good health and only a very few are under intensive care.

“Some are sick but not severe. Mild cases, we have accommodated in a complex which has a 1,500 bed capacity. We have also taken more measures to ensure the safety of healthcare workers with more focus on occupational safety. We are trying to make a balance between keeping people safe and keep things moving. This situation may continue for some more time,” he added.