Doha, Qatar – More than 200,000 people in Qatar have been tested for coronavirus since the outbreak last year.
The country also reports that 428 people died on April 26, plus 150 in the past 30 days, following a spate of lawsuits and civilian casualties.
It has vaccinated more than 1.4 million vaccines, with more than 19 percent receiving all tests, according to officials.
Earlier this month, Qatar announced Strong restrictions on COVID-19 on the rise of cases in the last few weeks.
Al Jazeera spoke with Dr Abdullatif Al Khal, chairman of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and director of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) on the reasons for the threats.
Al Jazeera: Qatar experienced an increase in cases in February and a strong one in March. The numbers continue to rise later. What is the reason for the climb?
Abdullatif Al Khal: Like many countries around the world, we are exposed to this same virus.
This increase is due to the spread of the crisis in the UK and South Africa. Variety in the UK has been circulating in the region since March. Although we have strict rules that apply to all travelers, the South African nation joined the movement in early April.
All of these diseases are more contagious and cause more serious illnesses than previous problems and we hope they have contributed to the development of COVID cases.
Al Jazeera: Strict rules were announced earlier this month. Should this be done already after the spike?
Al Khal: Qatar has been active in the epidemic. Although it managed to control the virus throughout the last 2020, Qatar still maintains strict rules to protect the second wave.
Our isolation policy for anyone entering Qatar has been the most difficult in the world and proven to be effective in delaying new races in Qatar at a time when many countries around the world were affected by this new disease. In addition, we continued to develop measures to prevent the virus from spreading.
The core of our COVID-19 concept still proves that we are working hard. Earlier this year, as we saw an increase in the number of new cases on a daily basis, we took immediate action to introduce some restrictions in early October. Recognizing the diversity of the UK, we urgently moved to expand the ban. The recent growth of the South African racial epidemic in early April means that we are fast moving forward to improve the ban.
Al Jazeera: There has been an invitation another closure. Is Qatar going to match what it did last year?
Al Khal: The most recent ban imposed on April 9 was the third set of new rules enacted this year. While economic needs are important, these decisions are always made by public health as the most important.
Once announced, we have committed to recent bans for more than three weeks. We are currently 18 days away from the ban and are still reviewing the information to see how the restrictions apply.
Although it is too early to predict, data show that hospital admissions rates have dropped and seen a slight decline in recent days. This is very encouraging and the first sign that a combination of vaccines and vaccines are working to stop the spread of the virus.
However, if the information indicates that the charges are rising then we will not hesitate to extend the ban.
Al Jazeera: COVID cases in children are on the rise now. How worrying are these because of the open schools?
Al Khal: It is clear that South African and UK races are affecting people younger than the original challenges. It is very worrying when children are exposed to the virus, but so far we have seen very few children get very sick from COVID-19.
Our school policy has been very strict – even though cases are low in the last quarter of 2020, schools use inclusive approaches.
This ensured a reduction in the number of classrooms in schools and helped to establish self-defense measures. All teachers, caregivers and almost all children are required to wear masks, while public safety is maintained and ‘Ehteraz’ [official contact-tracing app] and temperature monitoring takes place at the entrance to the school, where schools establish a pause system when classes are not mixed.
We have also enacted a law to isolate all cases of serious and suspicious – children and teachers. In addition, we have prioritized vaccines for teachers and school staff and we have the largest vaccine in the industry.
– Ministry of Public Health (@MOPHQatar) April 25, 2021
Al Jazeera: Overall, did Qatar manage to have more cases and deaths compared to the rest of the world?
Al Khal: The entire health sector has played a key role in the overall monitoring of Qatar to protect its citizens from COVID-19. Three key components of our strategy have been to improve healthcare capacity, public health systems and protect vulnerable populations.
We have significantly increased the number of hospital beds from 2,250 beds before the epidemic to more than 3,500 medical beds so far.
This is in addition to the several thousand beds in which people with COVID-19 are infected but not sick to stay in nursing homes.
Our health-care practices combined with testing and follow-up procedures helped us to quickly identify cases and ensure that they were given first-line medical care, so that their symptoms did not increase.
The most important thing that we do not lose is the way we have protected the most vulnerable people in our community.
In addition, we provided training programs for vulnerable groups to ensure that they know what to do to protect themselves during the epidemic.
Al Jazeera: Do we see the fatigue of COVID on the streets of Qatar? How difficult is it for citizens to realize the importance of following safety rules and following instructions in this time of crisis?
Al Khal: People in Qatar and around the world have been exposed to COVID-19 for more than 14 months and most of the people of Qatar have done very well. Since the outbreak we have been providing information and advice on how people can protect themselves and others from the virus.
The positive response to the virus in 2020 was a concerted effort by the government to monitor the population’s compliance.
Vaccination has shown that people understand the need to protect themselves from the virus and that vaccination is the best way to prevent the epidemic, but good results are achieved when vaccines are combined with standard preventive measures.
Vaccine delivery has been miraculously received by humans and we do not see the amount of vaccines that were dangerous around the world before they were released.
This interview was rescheduled for clarity and length