Images and videos of long lines and no social distancing at hospitals and clinics across Doha are causing concern as the country apparently faces a PCR testing crisis amid increased COVID numbers.
Following a spike in COVID-19 cases in Qatar over the past few days, the country is witnessing a significant delay in PCR tests and results. According to some social media users, making an appointment now in any medical center or hospital could take up to 24 hours which has led to many people canceling their flights or just not being able to check if they have been infected by the virus or not.
Social media users have expressed their distress and anger over the queues formed in front of hospital, where those lining up are not abiding by social distancing measures. Based on eyewitness accounts and videos posted online on Thursday, Sidra Hospital witnessed over 500 people at one point crammed together waiting to get tested.
A witness told Doha News “some of those queueing up were evidently sick, I saw one young boy vomit into his mother’s hands, several other people were coughing constantly, I felt it was too risky for me to stay so I left.
Late on Thursday, (after this article was first published) Sidra Medicine issued a statement saying it was “working closely with the police who have the full authority to deal with anyone being aggressive towards our staff, patients or visitors or those who are not maintaining social distance guidelines.”
At the PHCC’s Rawdet AlKhail centre, a line of around 200 people was seen standing back to front with no distancing between them either.
Almost all centers have asked those who have no appointments to leave, however, even those who had booked appointments were being told that their results might take up to 36 hours, which would deem their results redundant if they were planning to travel.
Many people have been asking online why and how such a crisis could take place given the fact that Covid has been around for two years, giving health officials plenty of time to ensure the infrastructure was in place to deal with a sudden increase in numbers.
Even though doctors and essential workers get priority testing, on General Practitioner (GP) who’s primary work has been dealing with COVID patients at a PHCC clinic told Doha News that he had taken a PCR test on Tuesday and had to wait 48 hours for the result.
Criticism of the Health Ministry’s insistence to rely solely on Hamad Medical Corporation’s labs to examine all of Qatar’s COVID swabs has become a central part of the online debate. While people can get a PCR test done at almost any hospital or clinic in Qatar, all of them are sent to an HMC facility making backlogs during high-numbers inevitable.
DO THE NUMBERS ADD UP?
Meanwhile, doubt is being cast over the official number of daily COVID cases announced by the Ministry of Public Health. On Thursday it was announced that 542 new cases had been registred in Qatar, but based on the thousands of people who have been queuing up for PCR tests and the severe delay in issuing results, many believe the actual number to be far higher.
One social media user among many others, expressed their anger to Doha News saying that they have paid 300QR before waiting in a long queue, and left Sidra due to incompetence and lack of care. His Ehteraz alerted him almost a dozen times that he was in close proximity of a positive case.
On Wednesday Qatar’s cabinet reinstated the mandatory wearing of face masks in all public places and announced small restrictions on public gatherings, however in light of recent images and the rise in positive cases questions are being asked if these measures are enough to curb what seems to be an imminent outbreak.
Doha news contacted officials at HMC for comment but did not receive any statement at time of publication.