It is advised that older employees return to work only in the fourth and final phase of lifting Covid-19 restrictions, an official has said.

Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, co-chair of the National Pandemic Preparedness Committee at the Ministry of Public Health and head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation, made the observation while addressing a press conference organised by the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management on Monday, as reported by the official Qatar News Agency (QNA).

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As announced on Monday, Phase 1 of the four-phase lifting of restrictions will begin on June 15, followed by the second on July 1, the third on August 1 and the fourth and final phase on September 1.

With regard to the gradual return of employees and workers to various institutions and companies, he said “it is advised to leave the elderly to the last (fourth) stage, at which time the rate of the virus’s spread will be at its lowest levels as hoped, so that going to work does not pose a great risk to them”, QNA reported.

On the possibility of people with chronic diseases going to mosques and commercial complexes, Dr al-Khal said at present, “it is never advisable from a medical point of view for people with chronic diseases to go to mosques in the early stages”. This especially applies to people with heart diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure and those who have chronic lungs diseases, patients who take immunosuppressive drugs, cancer patients, those with organ transplants, other patients who make frequent visits to the hospital and people above 60 years in order to preserve their lives and health, he stressed.

He added that this applies to visiting commercial complexes, too, as there is a high risk involved.

Regarding the application of these rules to asthma patients, Dr al-Khal said those with severe asthma are more likely to be infected with Covid-19, while those with moderate or mild asthma have lower chances of infection, and therefore they must follow the aforementioned rules for people with chronic diseases. They must, in general, not take risks at this time and expose themselves to infection.

He also stressed that the low prevalence of the virus in the community will continue to decline if the public and society adhere to all the conditions that had been mentioned before, whether it is in the mosques, commercial complexes or the workplace.

Dr al-Khal said wearing a mask is considered an addition to the preventive measures and is not considered a substitute for social distancing. He pointed out that some people, even while wearing masks, follow social distancing and leave a safe distance between them and others, warning that this matter is dangerous because transmission of the virus through the mask is possible if the person is at the peak of his or her ability to transmit the virus..

It may enter through the eyes and not only through the respiratory system, so a safe distance must be maintained with others, he noted, adding that one must not think that a mask is sufficient to protect a person from infection.