* UK Covid-19 variant significant factor in recent rise in intensive care admissions, say health officials
* People becoming sicker and experiencing more severe symptoms in second wave of virus * Get vaccinated and follow all precautionary measures
Officials at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) have said the UK Covid-19 variant has been a significant factor in the recent increase in people admitted to intensive care units at HMC, Qatar News Agency reports.
There are more people are in ICUs now than during the peak of the first Covid-19 wave in May 2020, according to one of the officials.
"Since the middle of March, the number of people receiving life-saving medical treatment in our intensive care units has more than doubled and we now have more than 280 people with Covid-19 in intensive care. To put this into perspective, at the peak of the first wave in May 2020, we had around 220 patients in intensive care. It is clear that people are becoming sicker and experiencing more severe symptoms in this second wave of the virus," said Dr Ahmed Mohamed, acting chairman of HMC's Intensive Care Units.
"The new UK variant is more highly transmissible than the original strain of Covid-19, meaning that it is more easily passed from person to person. But perhaps more worrying is that clinical evidence appears to now show that the UK variant can cause more severe illness. People infected with the UK variant are more likely to get very sick, require hospitalisation, admission to intensive care and, sadly, have more chance of dying due to serious complications from the virus," added Dr Mohamed.
Sheikh Dr Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani, director of Public Health at the MoPH, explained that despite the increased health risks presented by the UK variant, people can still take proactive steps to protect themselves and greatly reduce their chances of getting infected and becoming sick.
"Very early on in the global efforts to produce Covid-19 vaccines, Qatar was clear that it wanted to only procure internationally approved, safe and effective vaccines for its population. The two Covid-19 vaccines currently being used in Qatar - Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna - have both been shown to be effective at preventing severe symptoms due to the UK variant," said Sheikh Dr Mohamed.
He noted, "With more quantities of the vaccines now available in Qatar, the pace of the vaccination programme has advanced significantly. The most important step that everyone can take to protect themselves from Covid-19 is to get vaccinated as soon as they become eligible for the priority groups and are offered an appointment."
"The other way in which people can protect themselves is to follow all the Covid-19 precautionary measures: wear a mask, wash your hands regularly, avoid large gatherings and maintain physical distancing. The UK variant and other mutated strains of the virus, while more highly transmissible, pass from person to person in the same manner as the original strain, so the standard precautionary measures continue to play an important role in controlling the spread of the virus."