Qatar’s prime minister and health minister were seen inspecting a number of medical centres, following public discontent over apparat failure by health officials to deal with current crisis.
Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) is reducing the quarantine period for health workers with COVID-19 from seven to 10 days, as the country grapples with a dramatic surge in daily infections.
According to Qatar’s e-government portal, Hukoomi, staff at the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) were informed of Wednesday’s decision through a circular indicating that, in the absence of any ongoing symptoms, they are expected to show up on the eighth day, having completed seven days of quarantine.
The employees’ return is also dependent on a negative rapid antigen test.
An extract of the circular, shared by Hukoomi, states: “HMC noted that on the seventh day, if the employee does not show any symptoms and Rapid Antigen test results are negative, s/he can return to work on the eighth day.”
The latest decision comes as Qatar witnesses an alarming rise in daily COVID-19 infections, following the emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
— وزارة الصحة العامة (@MOPHQatar) January 5, 2022
Cases have been rapidly increasing over the past weeks, coinciding with large public gatherings at major social and sporting events in Qatar, including the FIFA Arab Cup 2021.
On Wednesday, the MOPH recorded 2,273 cases, with the total number of active cases surpassing 10,000; in late November there were fewer than 1,000 active cases.
Immediately after the marked increase in cases late last month, workers at the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) were forced to cancel all current and future vacations in accordance with a decision by the health body.
Those impacted by the decision included nurses, laboratory workers, radiologists, pharmacists, and other workers in health facilities dealing with or treating COVID-19 cases.
Health facilities’ inspection
A state of panic spread over the past week with the sharing of footage of hospitals and clinics with long queues for PCR tests. The local community has also expressed concern over crowding at health facilities and emergency centres, including the pediatric unit in Al-Sadd.
In response to calls for governmental intervention, Dr. Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, Qatar’s Health Minister, and Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, were seen inspecting medical centres on Wednesday; the same day it was announced the government had put a cap on the cost of Rapid Antigen Tests, putting an end to manipulative practices by some pharmacies who had been overcharging customers and taking advantage of the crisis.
— مرسال قطر (@Marsalqatar) January 5, 2022
Furthermore, Qatari authorities have been working on measures to relieve the burden on the health sector by urging those with mild COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate for 10 days rather than going to a hospital, almost all of which are already flooded with infected patients.
A number of additional facilities have also been introduced by the health ministry, including the drive-in testing centre at Lusail, which is due to open on 6 January.
The MOPH is also set to start sending test results via text message within two hours of testing. Additionally, the health monitoring app, Ehteraz, will now ensure that results are updated within four hours of testing.