With life slowly returning to normal now that an approved vaccine is gradually being rolled out, some people are starting to disregard health precautions, despite officials stressing the need to stay vigilant until the coronavirus is eradicated.
Over the past week more than 850 people have been referred to the public prosecutors office for not wearing masks in public places, while others have voiced their concerns on social media about gatherings of large crowds where people fail to comply with social distancing guidelines.
Thankfully, the number of reported daily cases in Qatar have been consistently and steadily decreasing, with the ministry reporting under 200 cases daily for sometime now. In addition, the total number of people in hospital intensive care units has remained under 30 during the past week. Till now Qatar holds one of the lowest death rates globally, coupled with the highest recovery rate with only 244 deaths reported since the start of the pandemic.
The first batch of the coronavirus vaccine by German firm BioNTech and American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, arrived in Qatar on Monday December 21st, making it one of the first Arab countries to receive the vaccine. Phase one of the campaign started on Wednesday 23rd of December and is running until January the 31st. Priority is being given to seniors above 70 years old, people with chronic illnesses who are 16 years or above, and frontline workers in the health sector. Following the first vaccination, recipients will receive a second dose 21 days after which is said to bolster the immunisation process and the effectiveness of the vaccine.
The first ever vaccine to be administered in Qatar was given to 79-year-old Abdullah Al Kubaisi, former president of Qatar University at the Al-Wajba Health Center.
“We appreciate all the effort the government has put in to protect the people of Qatar, especially given the severity of the virus,” Al Kubaisi said before taking the vaccine.
Many prominent figures in the health care sector have also taken the vaccine, Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, received his first shot on December 24th saying “ I have full confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage all those high-risk members of our community who are eligible in this first phase of the campaign to take this opportunity to protect themselves and get vaccinated.”
Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Thani, Director of Public Health, at the ministry and Dr. Hamad Eid Al Romaihi, Director of Health Protection and Communicable Diseases have also received the long-awaited jab. All in a bid to reassure the public that the vaccines are indeed safe.
Earlier this month a new strain of the virus was reported originating from the United Kingdom and is thought to be spreading faster then COVID-19. No cases of the new variant have been discovered in Qatar but several European countries have reported cases, as well as Canada, Jordan, Japan, South Korea and Spain. It prompted more than 50 countries to impose travel restrictions on Britain. Qatar introduced new guidelines which came into effect on Monday December 22nd for travellers coming from the UK and other countries in order to control the situation.