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Phase 4 of lifting COVID-19 curbs may be delayed if cases surge: Dr Al Khal

Phase 4 of lifting COVID-19 curbs may be delayed if cases surge: Dr Al Khal

Tribune News Network
Doha
If the COVID-19 infection rate in Qatar increases, the government may delay the Phase 4 of lifting the COVID-19 restrictions, a senior health official has said.
“We are mid-way through the Phase 3 of lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, but progression to Phase 4 depends on continuous improvements in the number of new daily cases. Unless we adhere to all the preventive measures, there is a real risk of returning to earlier phases,” Dr Abdullatif Al Khal, Chair of the National Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation, said at a press conference on Thursday.
Dr Al Khal said Qatar was closely monitoring nine indicators showing the extent of the virus transmission in the country.
“If they indicate a worrying increase, the Ministry of Public Health may recommend the government to delay the transition to the fourth stage,” he added.
A second wave of COVID-19 is a very real threat as several other countries around the world are now experiencing, he said.
Dr Al Khal said the measures put in place have succeeded in lowering the number of new daily cases over the past two months.
“At the peak of the virus in Qatar, we saw more than 2,000 new confirmed cases a day, yet for the past few weeks the number has constantly remained under 500. This is a considerable achievement but the evidence from countries around the world shows that it is very difficult to completely eradicate the virus. We expect a low, but consistent, number of new cases to be identified each day for many months. It is clear that the world will be living with the virus for some time to come,” he said.
The rate of positivity for every hundred cases reached 35 percent during the peak and decreased at the beginning of the month to 5 percent before it increased slightly, he noted.
“Adolescents and youth are the most common group among which the virus is currently spreading due to family visits,” he added.
“Although we are lifting restrictions across the country and many aspects of our daily life is returning to some sort of normal, we must not become complacent. Despite the total number of new cases declining considerably in recent weeks and months, there has been a worrying trend of increasing cases within the Qatari national and expat professional population groups,” he warned.
“This is due to a minority of people within these population groups who continue to ignore preventive advice -- putting themselves and those around them at risk,” he noted.
“We have seen repeated examples during both Eid holidays and throughout Ramadan of the virus spreading within families due to one or two individuals not adhering to social and physical distancing guidelines,” he said.
Dr Al Khal said this is of particular concern as it is the elderly and those with chronic diseases who are most at risk of serious complications from COVID-19, and the Qatari and expat professional population makes up a large proportion of these vulnerable people.
Dr Al Khal said students going to the school were required to wear masks in the classroom.
He also called on people going to malls and supermarkets to wear masks and to maintain a distance of at least one and a half metres in all directions from one another.
He urged them to use hand disinfection and shorten the period of stay in shopping centres and avoid congestion at entry and exit.
While cautioning that the world may have to live with the virus, Dr Khal said a vaccine for the pandemic is expected to be available before the end of the year.
For his part, Dr Hamad Al Rumaihi, Director of the Health Protection and Communicable Diseases Control Department and co-chair of the National Pandemic Preparation Committee, said, “We expect to be living with COVID-19 to some degrees for some time to come. Only when a reliable vaccine becomes available can we confidently believe the threat of COVID-19 is passed,’ Dr Al Rumaihi said.
He said, “If people adhere to preventive measures, we can expect to keep the virus under control but total eradication is unlikely in the near future. Therefore, we must learn to live with the virus and find ways to protect our most at risk groups.”
He said creating a safe zone in the house for elderly relatives is an important action you can do:
* One designated area of the house for these at risk people
* Anyone who enters this zone must wash their hands, wear a mask and maintain physical distancing
* Thoroughly sanitize the Safe Zone and keep as clean as possible .
* Keep the number of people who visit and interact with elderly relatives and those with chronic conditions to a minimum
* This small group of people should ensure they follow preventive advice at all times to minimize their risk of contracting the virus and passing it onto the vulnerable family member
* At the first sign of any symptoms these people should isolate themselves and get a test
“We have given up a lot of our normal daily lives throughout our fight against COVID-19 and our sacrifice has been rewarded with the decline of the virus. But the battle is not yet won and we must continue to do everything that we can until COVID-19 is no longer a threat to our community,” he added.