The fourth phase of lifting Covid-19 restrictions could start by September if the situation continued to improve and remained under control, Hamad General Hospital's medical director Dr Yousef al-Maslamani told Qatar TV on Monday.
"It was decided to delay the fourth phase and continue with the ongoing third phase during August due to the recent increase in the numbers of new cases of infection," he pointed out.
"The number of Covid-19 cases in the community had remained low and stable until eight days after the Eid holidays but they started to climb soon with more than 100 infections per day," Dr al-Maslamani recalled.
This, he explained, means more people need to be hospitalised and more patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Within the past 10 days such percentage started to increase rapidly.
"There is an improvement of the pandemic situation in the country but it is not recommended to open up more at this time," he stated.
Dr al-Maslamani attributed the spike in Covid-19 cases to the fact that many people started to be lax in abiding by the preventive and precautionary measures, especially wearing face masks and physical distancing.
“It has been observed that as we further open up and ease the restrictions, many people start to take the precautionary measures lightly, and rarely abide by them, which contributes towards the further spread of the disease. In addition, many people are coming back to the country from abroad these days, giving more chances to spread the disease,” he said.
"It is natural that the delta variant could be found in Qatar as it has spread over 190 countries around the world but due to the various measures adopted its entry was delayed. The strict procedures and conditions for returning to Qatar are meant to protect the people and the country and these are updated regularly based on the information and data published by the other countries in this regard," Dr al-Maslamani said.
The senior official also stressed that the excellent vaccination rate in the country has effectively helped in containing the disease as almost more than 85% of the eligible population above 12 years has taken at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and a good number both doses.
"However, herd immunity is not yet reached. So until then people should continue to abide strictly by the preventive and precautionary measures and those who are designated to home quarantine to avoid receiving any visitors until they complete the period.
Dr al-Maslamani also praised Qatar’s efforts in this regard, which has also won global acclaim in containing the disease and protecting the life and health of the inhabitants.
Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of vaccination at the MoPH, said that within the next few weeks, around 4mn doses of the Covid-19 vaccine would have been administered in Qatar.
"So far around 3.8mn vaccine doses are given, which means around 85% of the eligible persons got one dose. However, it would be practically difficult to vaccinate 100% of the eligible population as a very limited number are allergic to the components of the vaccines, and some others unwilling to take it for several pretexts, mostly unfounded.
"At the current vaccination rate, it is expected that Qatar should reach her immunity within two or three months," she said while stressing that the vaccine is safe for the elderly and pregnant women, and encouraged all to go for it to expedite the return to normal life.