* Non-compliance with preventive measures results in one or multiple positive cases within families and contacts
*Moving on to Phase 2 of lifting of restrictions is possible only if data showed continued improvement
* Number of new infections and cases of people being admitted to hospital each day with Covid-19 falling

The country is past the peak of Covid-19 transmission but there has been an increase in positive cases among Qatari nationals as well as expatriate professionals. Also, non-compliance with the preventive measures has resulted in one or even multiple positive cases within families and contacts.

These observations were made by senior officials at a press conference organised by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Tuesday.

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Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation, and Dr Hamad al-Romaihi, director of Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control at the Public Health Department and co-chair of the National Pandemic Preparation Committee, addressed the press conference.

“We are now past the peak of the virus in Qatar and are seeing the number of new infections come down each week,” Dr al-Khal said. “The number of people being admitted to hospital each day with Covid-19 is also falling.”

At the same time, he noted that “we are seeing an increase in the number of deaths in recent weeks and this is due to people who were infected at the peak of the virus several weeks ago”.

A total of 99 deaths have been reported so far and this can further increase in the coming days, he added.

“There has been an increase in positive cases among Qatari nationals and expatriate professionals,” Dr al-Khal continued. They include engineers, doctors, teachers and others.

“This is of great concern as this population group is the one with the highest proportion of elderly people and people with chronic conditions,” he said. “Now, more than ever, is the time to be cautious and protect those most at risk.

“It is vital that we continue to protect the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.”

The official said the number of cases that require intensive care has been decreasing. The most vulnerable categories are those above 50 years and people with chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

Dr al-Khal said the country is midway through Phase 1 of the lifting of restrictions. “But we can only move to Phase 2 if the data showed continued improvement,” he stressed.

It is essential that people follow all preventive advice and measures as the restrictions are lifted, he reiterated. “We all have a part to play in the successful lifting of restrictions and I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that we all take responsibility for our role.”

Dr al-Khal said they expect the pandemic to continue receding but people should remain more careful to avoid a second wave.

Addressing the press conference, Dr al-Romaihi said: “We continue to see examples of people ignoring the preventive measures, resulting in one or even multiple positive cases within families and contacts.”

“Our tracing system has shown on many occasions how young and healthy people have ignored social and physical distancing and this has led to them contracting the virus and passing it on to family members,” he noted.

The surveillance team at the MoPH continues to track and trace all cases to identify potential new cases and gain an understanding of how the virus is transmitted.

“Despite the overall numbers being encouraging, we are seeing an increase in the number of cases within the Qatari and expat professional community, where we have high numbers of elderly and people with chronic conditions,” he said.

“We are at a critical time for these people and unless we adhere to strict preventive measures, we could see cases, and ultimately deaths, increasing in our most vulnerable people,” Dr al-Romaihi stressed.

Early detection of infection transmission chain through Ehteraz and the other usual means has considerably reduced any further spread of the disease.

No member of the society should be complacent – though the risk of serious symptoms is low for young and healthy people, they can easily be carriers of the virus and pass it on to contacts who are elderly or have chronic conditions, he said.

“Everyone has a role to play in the lifting of restrictions and protecting the elderly and people with chronic conditions,” Dr al-Romaihi added.

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