Qatar's "great efforts to combat the coronavirus crisis" has not stopped it from lending a helping hand to other countries, stressed Sheikh Dr Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani, director of the Public Health Department at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

Qatar has sent medical aid to countries like China, Iran, Italy and Lebanon in addition to providing financial support to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip to combat Covid-19, while organisations such as Qatar Red Crescent Society and Qatar Charity are continuing to contribute to the efforts of fighting the virus in many countries, he noted.

The Qatari assistance has been praised by the United Nations and World Health Organisaion (WHO), the official added.

He made the observations this while speaking on co-operation with regional and international authorities and organisations to combat Covid-19, during an interview with Qatar News Agency.

He said the MoPH has been working, since the beginning of the novel coronavirus crisis, to accelerate national efforts and enhance capabilities, logistic supplies, proactive precautionary preparations and measures to curb the spread of the disease, in co-ordination with WHO.

This has been done by taking into consideration Covid-19 guidelines and scientific evidence released by WHO, and enhancing communication with other countries affected by the virus by exchanging information as well as strategic plans implemented by these nations to tackle the disease and learn from their expertise and experiences, according to Sheikh Dr Mohamed.

At the regional level, Qatar took part in the meeting of health ministers of the Gulf Co-operation Council states held on March 14 via a video-conference to discuss the measures followed by each country to curb the spread of coronavirus. These include the measures followed at entry points, statistics related to the virus, preparedness of the health sector, media and awareness-raising plans and emergency plans, he added.

The official said the ministry is following with interest what is being done by two leading universities, namely University of Cambridge and Carnegie Mellon University, separately to develop apps that listen to users' coughs and voices to predict whether they are infected with the coronavirus.

Updates related to co-ordination between technology giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Google with WHO are also being followed up regarding the provision of digital epidemiology tools, chatbots, rapid response test kits and other technologies to combat the epidemic.

Regarding the Public Health Department's handling of this pandemic, Sheikh Dr Mohamed explained that WHO defines public health as the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organised efforts of society, and therefore efforts to tackle the coronavirus is a core responsibility of the department.

Within the framework of the implementation of the National Health Strategy, the department, he said, has established a system for monitoring, controlling and following up on all epidemic and infectious diseases, and it continues to carry out its tasks regarding health prevention, protection and promotion and the provision of its services at the national and individual levels.

Sheikh Dr Mohamed pointed out that all employees of the Public Health Department have demonstrated flexibility and creativity in dealing with this crisis by continuing to implement public health programmes and including them in the efforts made to combat this epidemic, including providing psychological support to the public in facing this dangerous virus and linking home quarantine with physical activity and proper food, as well as advising to work remotely by applying the same 'health in the workplace' programme, continuing health education programmes in order to spread awareness about this pandemic, continuing public prevention programmes and linking them to the epidemic, urging the public to wash hands, keep social distance, and wear face masks and gloves.

He added that the organisational awareness-raising action did not stop with regard to raising awareness about cancer. In such circumstances, patients with cancer who are undergoing chemical or immunological treatments, oral medications or radiotherapy are more likely to be infected with the virus than others because of their weak immune system.

In conclusion, Sheikh Dr Mohamed said a set of remote health services has been activated to facilitate patients' access to the necessary medical care without the need to visit the hospital, and this includes providing medical support and advice over the phone, activating virtual clinics for diabetics, in addition to providing home delivery of medicines.