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Saturday, January 22, 2022

UK strain, spike in hospitalisation: Will more Covid-19 restrictions be imposed?


Covid-19 infections surge and demands for hospitalisation is significantly increasing, does this mean further restrictions will be imposed?

A 110% increase in the number of patients receiving care in ICU has been recorded since the start of February, a senior health official said, as he confirmed the presence of the UK variant in Qatar.

The number of daily hospital admissions has inclined from around 40 a few months ago to over 100 at present, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mohamed, acting chairman of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC)’s Intensive Care Units said in a press conference.

Some 106 acute cases were admitted to hospital on Wednesday, when authorities recorded 473 new positive infection. This bumped the number of current active cases to 11,178.

Since January, infections have gone up four times and the total number of people currently under acute hospital care is 748. 

“Cases of severe infection with the coronavirus which require hospitalisation ‎have increased significantly, at a rate of more than 3 times from January, said Dr. Abdullatif Al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of Infectious Diseases at HMC. 

Meanwhile, the capacity of hospitals that receive Covid-19 patients has increased by 60-70%.

However, Qatar’s healthcare sector is able to care for “each and every” Covid-19 patient requiring hospital and ICU admission in spite of the surge in recent weeks, officials assured.

At the start of the pandemic last year, authorities launched a plan to expand the bed capacity across all hospitals in the country to meet an increase in demands as infections increased.

This has once again been expanded to ensure enough beds for coronavirus-related emergencies.

“Every day, we are seeing more people admitted to hospital and ICU, requiring life-saving treatment,” Al Khal said, describing a sharp surge in infections as “incredibly concerning”.

Many of these people are severely sick and require intensive treatment and advanced respiratory support,” he added.

This comes as Qatar recorded positive Covid-19 cases of the UK strain, known as B.1.1.7.

“Qatar’s strict quarantine policy for returning travellers enabled us to delay the introduction of new variants into this country for several months but we are now seeing positive Covid-19 cases in the region and in Qatar with the new variant known as B.1.1.7 (UK strain),” Dr. Al-Khal said. 

He noted that “this new variant is much more contagious and spread more easily between people than the existing strain and may be associated with increased severity of the disease.”

Read also: Nearly half of school staff vaccinated: health ministry

The two vaccines used in Qatar’s vaccination program Pizer/BioNTech and Moderna have been proven to be effective against the new variants.

More than 327,582 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the start of the vaccination programme in December.

Currently, more than 15,000 shots are being administered on a daily basis and no serious side effects have been reported. 

“Covid-19 will continue to be a threat to our health for the majority of 2021 and until all eligible members of our population have been vaccinated, we must continue to follow the preventive measures,” Al Khal noted.

Meanwhile, the health official said further restrictions are likely to be imposed due to the significant increase in infection cases. 

“It is very important that people seek help early — as soon as they notice the signs and symptoms — as the earlier treatment can be given, the better the chances of a full recovery,” Dr. Al-Mohamed advised citizens and residents of Qatar.

Health experts earlier urged all groups on the priority list who have not yet been inoculated to get the vaccine.

Regarding concerns about fasting on the day of vaccine, Dr. Al Khal pointed out that “syringe-based vaccination does not necessitate a break from fasting.”

This means that people who will be fasting on the day of their appointment should not hesitate to take the vaccine.

Al Khal also explained to pregnant women that there is no indication that inoculation is not safe during pregnancy, whether for the mother or the fetus, adding that “infection with the virus during pregnancy may lead to severe complications.”

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