Qatar is now seeing over 500 new Covid-19 cases every day and it is likely this number will increase over the next 10 to 14 days, a senior health official has said.
Addressing a press conference organised by the Ministry of Public Health Wednesday, Dr
'With Ramadan fast approaching, we must all do what we can now so that we can control this virus quickly and hopefully ease some of the restrictions during the holy month and be able to celebrate Eid'
Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, said over the past two weeks the Covid-19 situation has become worse as more people fall sick and need to be admitted to the hospitals with severe illness.
"In the past week, the rate of daily cases has increased, and it is clear that we are in the second wave of the virus," he said.
Seven people have died due to the virus in the past week.
"As we announced two weeks ago, despite the best efforts to prevent the introduction of new variants into the country, we, like many countries in the region and around the world, are now seeing many cases in Qatar of the new variant from the UK.
"The circulation of the UK variant has contributed significantly to the spread of Covid-19 in Qatar and to the recent increase in cases, as it is more highly transmissible and clinical evidence appears to now show that the UK variant can cause more severe illness."
He continued, "In recent days, we have also identified a number of cases of the South African variant among returning travellers. The new restrictions will help ensure the South African variant does not enter the community and become the dominant strain."
The new strain does not cause different symptoms, but it is more likely to spread among individuals, and some evidence indicates that the new strain may cause severe disease, he said.
The official said many of the restrictions announced Wednesday fell in Tier 3 while some in Tier 4 will also be implemented from Friday.
He explained that curbing the spread of the virus requires that the majority of the population have received vaccination, noting that any epidemic that spreads through the respiratory system is not largely controlled until the vaccination rate among the population reaches more than 60%, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.
The official said, "We still need more time until all members of society are vaccinated and we have given more than 650,000 doses of the vaccine." Around 20,000 doses are being given every day at present and more than 180,000 doses will be given per week soon, he added.
Dr al-Khal also affirmed that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines approved in Qatar are effective against the new strains of Covid-19, and that there is a decrease in the number of infections among the groups that have received the vaccination, which is an indicator recorded in a number of countries of the world and reflects the effectiveness of vaccines that have efficacy levels of over 90% so far, QNA said.
He noted the importance of adherence to precautionary measures outside homes even after taking the vaccine, as well as preserving the principle of "one bubble" in social visits in addition to not leaving the house except for some necessity in the coming period. He stressed that the new restrictions will not be easy, but will contribute to curbing the pandemic and defeating the virus.
On the concept of implementing the bubble system, he explained that it means that a group that meets frequently - with a limited number of people - does not mix with members of other families as much as possible. This also applies to friends who meet frequently, so that their number remains limited and fixed without mixing with others. "If we can keep these bubbles within one family and the same group of friends, we will be able to contain the virus," he said.
Dr al-Khal stressed that the data and clinical evidence are clear — "unless we all do our part in following these new restrictions as well as all the preventive measures, we will continue to see the number of new daily cases increase daily."
"If each and every one of us takes responsibility and acts appropriately over the next two to three weeks, we can cut this virus off and begin to see a big decline in cases," he said. "With the holy month of Ramadan fast approaching in April, we must all do what we can now so that we can control this virus quickly and hopefully ease some of the restrictions during Ramadan and be able to celebrate Eid.
"We all have an individual responsibility to play our part in getting through this pandemic. Although we are in a better position this year than last year because of the vaccines, at least for now, we must all work together and tighten the measures against Covid-19."
Dr al-Khal said last Ramadan witnessed an increase in the number of cases because of family visits and social gatherings, expressing concern about a recurrence of such a situation this year. Accordingly, it was necessary to impose more restrictions to avoid an aggravation of the situation in the holy month and Eid al-Fitr.
He called on everyone to fully adhere to the precautionary measures and stay at homes as much as possible to avoid the spread of the virus, looking forward to the possibility of easing some restrictions during the holy month and celebrating Eid al-Fitr.
He warned that the failure of members of society to carry out their role in following the new restrictions and measures will cause an increase in the number of daily infections. At the same time, he praised the strong will of the Qatari community and the means available to curb the virus, stressing that adhering to the precautionary and preventive measures in the coming period will contribute greatly to limiting the spread of the virus and decreasing the number of infections.