By Menatalla Ibrahim & Hazar Kilani
Even though Qatar’s lockdown restrictions are easing up, the probability of you encountering the COVID-19 virus remains very high. Here’s what to expect if you need to take a test.
On Monday, June 6, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Qatar exceeded 100,000, with 146 reported deaths since the start of the pandemic. Though the number of daily cases in Qatar has decreased to less than 1,000 since May and this week went to below 500 for the first time since April 19, Qatar still has one of the world’s highest per capita numbers of confirmed cases.
With this high infection level in mind while lockdown restrictions ease weekly, it’s important to know what you should do if you think you’ve come into contact with the virus.
Know the symptoms
First and foremost, according to Hamad Medical Corporation, people who experience fever and cough, shortness of breath (new or worsening), sore throat and runny nose should immediately test for COVID-19.
If you have these symptoms, either phone the Hamad helpline on 16000 or go directly to one of the designated health centres for testing.
When you call 16000, customer service will ask for your name, your symptoms and if you have:
- Acute respiratory illness (fever of 37.8°C or more and at least one sign/symptom of respiratory disease, such as cough or shortness of breath) with no other obvious reason for the illness.
- A history of travel to or residence in a country/area reporting local transmission of COVID-19 during the 14 days prior to the onset of your symptoms.
- Been in contact with a COVID-19 patient in the 14 days prior to the onset of your symptoms.
- Severe acute respiratory infection (fever and at least one symptom of respiratory disease, such as cough or shortness of breath), in addition to requiring hospitalisation.
- Chronic medical conditions and/or an immunocompromised state that may put you at higher risk of poor outcomes. This may include advanced age, heart diseases, diabetes, receiving immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung diseases and chronic kidney diseases.
If you have any of the above symptoms or risks associated with COVID-19, you have five options for testing. The right one for you depends on your situation, health and convenience.
1. Hamad Hospital walk-in
People who experience symptoms can go directly to the emergency area at Hamad Hospital, which is open for walk-ins (no appointment needed).
A nurse will ask you questions about your symptoms, take your temperature and do a quick checkup. If you have fever and cough, shortness of breath (new or worsening), or a sore throat and runny nose, you will be directed to an isolated room in the COVID-19 designated area to test for the virus.
Your EHTERAZ app will turn grey and you will be asked to stay at home until the results are out the next day.
If the results are positive, you will get a call with your result and a text message. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you will either be asked to quarantine at home or be transported to a COVID-19 hospital (for severe cases). Your EHTERAZ app will turn red for 10 days.
If tested negative, you will get a phone call and a text message with your result. Shortly after, your EHTERAZ App will turn green and you will be allowed to leave the house if needed.
2. Primary Health Care Corporation Health Centres
Hamad’s Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) has allocated four health centres to test and hold suspected COVID-19 cases:
- Rawdat Al Khail
- Gharrafat Al Rayyan
- Umm Slal
All the health centres are open 24/7 except for Umm Slal, which is open 7 a.m to 11 p.m, seven days a week. Just like Hamad walk-ins, the moment you arrive, a nurse will ask you questions about your symptoms, take your temperature and do a quick checkup.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you will be taken to an isolated room to get tested. Test results will be out in a day, and you will receive a text message and phone call with your results.
3. Private clinics
In late June 2020, private healthcare facilities were permitted to carry out swab tests for COVID-19, sending the swabs to Hamad Medical Corporation for examination.
The following are allowed to get tests at private clinics:
- People with COVID-19 signs and respiratory symptoms.
- Patients for admissions, including acute admissions and admissions for elective surgeries.
- Healthcare workers.
- Periodic testing of employees of other sectors.
- People who need a pre-travel certificate confirming negative COVID-19.
The tests cost less than QAR 50 and people experiencing symptoms can call prior to visiting or walk-in, depending on the clinic. Results are released by text message and phone call within 48 hours.
4. Drive-through swab test centres
Drive-through swab test centres are by invitation — only those who receive a phone call from the PHCC to book an appointment are eligible for the service.
The swab test hubs are located at Al Thumama, Al Waab and Leabaib health centres.
5. Home visit
Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) is responsible for home visits, usually only arranging them in cases where entire households have been in contact with an external party who tested positive.
In these situations, an MOPH representative calls to ask about symptoms and if the family has had contact with anyone outside. They then schedule a testing appointment at home, with a visiting team of specialists often testing the whole household as a precautionary measure.
If tested positive, even if most of the household is asymptomatic, they are told to quarantine at home and not step outside. Anyone with severe symptoms can be moved to a government quarantine facility.
Qatar entered its second phase of lockdown easing at the start of July. This included opening up some coffee shops and restaurants with strict health precautions, malls with restricted hours and capacity, allowing gatherings on a small scale, and opening up parks, the corniche and beaches.
The third phase will start on August 1, and will further ease restrictions with strict health precautions in place.
The final phase is set to begin on September 1, with all COVID-19 restrictions in the country lifted.
For more information on COVID-19 in Qatar, visit www.moph.gov.qa/english/Pages/default.aspx.