The conference introduced tighter measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus among community members.
Qatar imposed yet more Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday in a bid to contain a concerning surge in daily cases.
In a press conference, Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation [HMC], said the spike in numbers is linked to the emergence of more strains across the country.
The community’s lack of adherence to measures in place has also been a key factor, the health official said.
“There is an increase in the number of infections worldwide, and we are still in the middle of a second wave in Qatar,” said Dr. Al Khal, noting the country has yet to reach its peak.
According to the senior health official, 30% of those who were tested after experiencing symptoms were found to be positive – a high number, according to the official.
🦠Doha News has learnt that a lockdown with restrictions similar to those seen during the start of the pandemic is expected to be announced this week. As numbers continue to rise, we ask: has #Qatar gotten it wrong with the second #Covid19 wave?👇 https://t.co/HXuUYxaHdb
— Doha News (@dohanews) April 5, 2021
Health authorities also witnessed an increase in hospital admissions, with 266 recorded last week alone due to an increase in infections and the emergence of the new, more severe UK and South African strains.
“Despite a strict quarantine policy, new strains that cause more severe symptoms than the original strain, have arrived in the State of Qatar,” he explained.
The UK and South African variants entered the country over the past several weeks, prompting authorities to impose tighter measures to contain the virus.
The closure of all dine-in options at restaurants and cafes, a reversion to online learning, and a decrease in capacity at workplaces, malls and transport systems are just some of the latest precautions.
“The outcome of the latest restrictions depends on the public’s adherence. We can only see the results after two or three weeks,” Dr. Al Khal added, pointing toward Qatar’s initial strict lockdown that helped delay a second wave.
Collection strength necessary
Wednesday’s restrictions came just days ahead of the annual Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, where those observing the holy month traditionally gather for feasts, prayers and worship.
“I know for sure that implementing these measures before Ramadan will be difficult for many, but we have to have the strength and will to curb the spread of the virus as we did last year,” he said.
“In the event of laxity and a rise in the number of cases, we may resort to imposing further restrictions,” he warned.
Exemptions for vaccinated?
Meanwhile, the health official said exemptions for those that have been fully inoculated may gradually be introduced as the number of vaccinations increase.
So far, at least 26% of the population have received at least the first shot, with more than 1 million doses being administered in the country.
“We expect to make such exemptions in the upcoming weeks when more get vaccinated,” he said.
Just hours prior to the conference, health authorities recorded the highest Covid-19 deaths in a single day, with eight people succumbing to the virus on Wednesday. Some 940 new positive cases were also reported, bumping the total active cases to 18,401.
However, despite the alarming numbers, the senior health official said both the joint Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have proven to be effective against the two strains.