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MoPH launches COVID-19 testing pilot to enhance contact tracing

THE Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has launched a COVID-19 environmental testing pilot, in partnership with a number of governmental, educational and research institutions in Qatar, to support and enhance surveillance and contact tracing efforts.
During the pilot phase, innovative technology was used to collect surface, air and wastewater samples and test the presence of COVID-19. Results will allow the authorities to detect the presence of the virus and monitor any potential spread earlier through its concentration in wastewater. It will also help assess the efficacy of cleaning protocols to remove viral contamination in different environments.
Environmental testing provides significant support for the epidemiological and contact tracing teams on the ground. It extends the reach of the contact tracing team beyond individuals, who have been in contact with positive COVID-19 cases, to areas that the positive individual may have visited and, as such, presents a risk. The environmental testing research is one example of the innovative, evidence-based approach Qatar is taking in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The immediate need is clearly to tackle the COVID-19 and support Qatar’s efforts with additional data to track the viral spread. However, in the long-term, setting up such a national environmental screening infrastructure would go a long way in screening the supply chain into Qatar and supporting screening efforts during the FIFA 2022 World Cup,” said Sheikh Dr Mohamed bin Hamad Al Thani, director of the Department of Public Health at the Ministry of Public Health.
“This pilot study highlights the established scientific base with diverse and complementary expertise in Qatar that has been built over the years through the efforts of the Qatari leadership, in particularly Qatar Foundation and Qatar National Research Fund. It further shows an effective collaborative effort in support of national needs and the ability of innovative scientific approach to advance the management of the epidemic in Qatar,” said Dr Khaled Machaca, professor of Physiology and Biophysics and senior associate dean for Research, Innovations and Commercialisation at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar. MoPH is supported in this project by eight organisations, namely Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar University, Qatar Environmental, and Energy Research Institute, Public Works Authority (Ashghal), Qatar Biobank, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, Texas A&M University - Qatar, and Weill Cornell Medicine - Qatar. (QNA)