* Country witnessing stabilisation of Covid-19 outbreak, national response strategy has been effective
* Primary Covid-19 focus during year ahead will be to roll out country's mass vaccination strategy and continue supporting global vaccination drive through support to WHO
Qatar has witnessed a stabilisation of the Covid-19 outbreak for several weeks and there has been no second wave of the virus, HE the Minister of Public Health Dr Hanan Mohamed al-Kuwari has stressed.
HE the Minister also noted that there are a few cases of virus outbreaks that are mostly related to family, social gatherings or shared places of residence, and this is controlled through effective monitoring and case tracking, while also warning this does not mean that "we are completely safe from the threat of the second wave," Qatar News Agency reported on Saturday.
During her opening address at the Qatar Health 2021 Virtual Conference recently, HE Dr al-Kuwari told delegates that under the direction of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, the health sector has worked with partners across the government to deliver a comprehensive strategy to protect Qatar's population from the threat of Covid-19.
HE the Minister officially opened the Qatar Health 2021 Virtual Conference recently. During the opening, she told attendees through the conference’s innovative virtual platform that Qatar Health 2021 was an opportunity to come together and reflect on the important lessons from the past 12 months and ensure that Qatar’s health system is ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
She said, “Qatar has faced a large epidemic of Covid-19, which reached its peak on May 20. Despite the large number of cases, our health system, including hospitals and ICUs, was never overwhelmed and the number of deaths remained at very low levels with a case fatality rate of 0.14%, one of the lowest in the world.
"We are now witnessing a stabilisation of the disease, which has been going on for several weeks: we have not seen a second wave, but a number of small outbreaks, mostly associated with family, social gatherings or shared accommodation. These were controlled through intense active surveillance and contact tracing. However, this does not mean we are free from the risk of a second wave."
“At the start of the pandemic, our government took very seriously into account the warnings of the WHO (World Health Organisation) and the experience of countries such as China and Italy, which were first heavily hit by the new disease," HE the Minister continued. "We used this 'window of opportunity' that WHO mentioned several times and which Dr Michael Ryan, our keynote speaker (at Qatar Health 2021), repeatedly emphasised.”
HE Dr al-Kuwari told the attendees that from the outset it was clear that Qatar’s national response had to be carefully co-ordinated across the government and marked by timeliness, clear lines of authority and the integration of efforts.
“Our strategy, reflected in a National Response Action Plan, was based on what we knew to be effective elsewhere and our own ability to quickly mobilise a highly capable foundation of community and hospital services. We have followed this plan through, reinforced our health intelligence efforts and continuously refined our strategy. We have relied on science and evidence and a careful balance of health and business needs,” she explained.
“Very early in the course of this pandemic, we worked on rapid expansion of our acute and ICU beds knowing that 14% of Covid patients would require admission to hospital and 5% would need intensive care. In a record time, we opened isolation facility, acute care beds, ICU beds, transformed a general hospital into an ICU hospital, secured ventilators, protective gear, laboratory testing, redeployed hundreds of clinical staff and volunteers, and established tracing and tracking capacity.”
She said these results have been achieved "thanks to the talent and commitment of Qatar’s wonderful doctors and nurses and the whole healthcare workforce. It is also a testament of the high quality of the nation’s healthcare system".
“A key factor for the successful implementation of all these measures is the structure of our health system that is based on universal health coverage,” HE Dr al-Kuwari said. “Treatment of patients and all health-related costs were covered by the government irrespective of nationality or social conditions. This allowed careful management and high standards of care for all our patients.
“One of the main challenges we faced during the pandemic has been to ensure continuity of treatment for patients with chronic diseases. We took advantage of digital communications to enable remote consultations, home care and medication home delivery to be swiftly and efficiently established.”
HE Dr al-Kuwari said the gigantic effort to confront Covid-19 could not have been made without the support of the people of Qatar.
“We could never have controlled the epidemic without the help and support of the people of Qatar who observed rules on masks wearing and hand hygiene and limit public gathering. Consequently, we never reached a full lockdown,” she noted.
She said 2021 and beyond presented new challenges that required the same focus, innovation and dedication.
“Throughout 2020, our approach has been underpinned by three important elements – planning, commitment and resilience. And, as we look forward to 2021 – we are going to need the same planning, commitment and resilience we have shown over the last year,” she said. “Our primary Covid-19 focus during the year ahead will be to roll out our mass vaccination strategy and to continue to support the global vaccination drive through our support to WHO.”
HE Dr al-Kuwari said the pandemic "has changed our lives" and posed a huge challenge to having mass gatherings. She said Qatar’s response to Covid-19 has made use of the knowledge and experience freely shared by other countries and international organisations. At the same time, Qatar contributed to global knowledge with a number of original research papers and reports – several of these presented at Qatar Health 2021.
“The experience we learnt by hosting many sports and other mass gathering events in 2020 during the pandemic has put us in a strong position to host safely the numerous events in 2021 that are a precursor to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar,” she noted. “Qatar, in collaboration with its local and international partners, is in a wonderful position to set a new standard in hosting safe and healthy mass gathering events. I invite you to learn, share and put in practice what you learn over the next few days.”
With more than 5,000 registered attendees, 'Qatar Health 2021 Pandemic Mitigation: Best Practice for Disaster Medicine, Mass Gatherings and Trauma Systems' was a collaborative effort between Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and the MoPH in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Qatar Health 2021 is three-day programme of interactive and immersive sessions and a virtual exhibition. The keynote speaker for the event was Dr Ryan, WHO's director of the Health Emergencies Programme and considered one of the pre-eminent experts throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event hosted a unique and fully immersive exhibition where attendees could visit virtual booths by partners and sponsors of Qatar Health 2021. The MoPH, HMC and Primary Health Care Corporation had three joint booths at the virtual exhibition focusing on the healthcare sector’s response to Covid-19, innovation across the healthcare system and healthcare preparations for FIFA World Cup 2022.
Sponsors for Qatar Health 2021 included Qatar Biobank and Aamal Medical.Last updated: January 23 2021 11:40 PM
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