Education ministry confirms all schools and educational institutions will go virtual as of Sunday.
All schools, pre-schools and universities will adopt a “distance learning” system from Sunday, education authorities said on Thursday.
The move affects both public and private institutions and will see the suspension of in-person attendance.
This is “due to the health conditions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and the increasing numbers of daily cases,” a ministry statement said.
Teachers will be required to continue attending schools as normal and the final exams for all grades will be held in person at schools, according to the scheduled dates.
“The distance learning model, which was deployed last year in response to the pandemic, is an optimal choice for the students to continue their academic achievement under the current health conditions,” the statement added.
“Building on the previous experience, the model has been improved suit the educational requirements and maximise its benefits to students. The Ministry has been working tirelessly to allow students to continue their education under any circumstances,” it said.
The latest move comes as Qatar continues to witness a surge in cases, many of which include the more severe UK variant. Health officials say more people are now being admitted into Intensive Care Units (ICU) compared to the peak of the first Covid-19 wave in May last year.
“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,” said acting chairman of HMC’s ICU Dr. Ahmed Mohamed.
Speaking on Al Rayyan TV, the doctor said the intensity of the second wave could soon see yet more precautionary measures imposed if required, including a full lockdown for a period of two to three weeks. This would help slow down the number of daily active cases across the country, he said.
A full lockdown is “the best approach to stop the spread of the virus. If people continue to mix and attend work as normal, as well as events, exhibitions and social gatherings – this will make an already infectious virus to spread in a drastic manner,” he said.
“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,” he added.
On Thursday, 840 new Covid-19 cases were recorded, bumping the total number of active cases to 15,965. The death toll currently stands at 295 and has been steadily increasing in recent weeks.
The health official also said laboratory tests confirm the presence of new variants in Qatar, which he said may have entered the country through travellers, transit, or even during peak hours at Hamad International Airport.
“In the past two weeks alone, we have seen an 82% increase in the number of people infected with the virus in ICU,” he added. Some 40% of the cases in intensive care during the current wave are under the age of 50.
UK contagious strain
The UK Covid-19 variant has been a significant factor in the recent increase in ICU admissions.
This is because the UK variant is more transmissible than the original strain of Covid-19, meaning that it can pass more easily from person to person and can cause more severe illness. People infected with this specific variant are more likely to need intensive care and require hospitalisation.
Which is more concerning is the fact that the second wave is also hitting children below the age of 14.
Dr. Mohamed said that the new covid-19 strains may have entered the country through travellers, transit, or even during peak hours at Hamad International Airport.
However, director of Public Health at the MoPH Sheikh Dr. Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani explained that people can still take proactive steps to protect themselves and reduce their chances of infection.
“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,” said al-Thani.
“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,” he added.
Dr. Mohammed also stressed that the applied methods of treatment for all Covid-19 variants are the same with no difference in terms of efficacy.