Qatar’s COVID-19 strategy relies heavily on intensive investigations and contact tracing: MoPH
Updated: May 14
Tribune News Network
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has stressed that Qatar’s strategy to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic relies heavily on intensive investigations and follow-up of contacts, which gives more room for early identification of cases, including those who do not show symptoms.
The MoPH has redoubled its efforts in tracking the transmission chains of the virus and expanding the circle of searching for infected people through intensive and proactive investigations.
The ministry said the contact tracing procedure aims to reach infected people as soon as possible to help break the disease transmission chain and limit its spread in society.
The ministry had so far conducted more than 135,000 COVID-19 tests, leading to detection of so many cases.
“The percentage of positive cases from those tested by investigation and follow-up reached 25 percent and most of them have no symptoms,” the MoPH said, adding that this high percentage reflects the effectiveness of the process of contact tracing and the accuracy of selecting the people to be examined.
The ministry said early detection of positive cases plays a major role in slowing the spread of the virus, and allows early treatment to prevent possible complications that some patients may suffer if detected at a later stage, especially if they suffer from other diseases.
“This has helped Qatar maintain one of the lowest COVID-19 fatality rates in the world,” the MoPH said, adding that Qatar has recorded 14 deaths so far and most of these cases were suffering from chronic diseases and sought medical care at a late stage.
The MoPH has allocated a specialized team to investigate and track contacts, as the team has expanded from 20 to 240 members over the past weeks to meet the requirements of comprehensive contact tracing.
The team includes representatives from the Ministry of Public Health, Hamad Medical Corporation and the Primary Health Care Corporation, as well as a number of volunteers.
“If a positive case is detected, a representative will speak to him to collect information about the places he visited and the people who have been in contact with him,” it said.
“This information is used to build a detailed picture of people who may have been infected, such as colleagues or family members, and then checks are performed for those contacts and isolate them at home for 14 days, even if the test results are negative.
People subjected to domestic isolation are advised to call the 16000 hotline if they develop any symptoms,” it added.
In this context, Dr Suha al Bayyat, head of the vaccinations department in the Department of Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control, said, “It is very important for the public to cooperate with health teams in providing accurate information when contacting them and agreeing to undergo tests as soon as possible, as this reduces the risk to both the infected people, their families and colleagues.”
“Even if a person appears to be in good health, he may be a carrier of the virus and may cause infection in one of his family members, who may be at a greater risk than him, due to the fact that they are older or suffer from chronic diseases or among them pregnant women,” Dr Suha added.
In addition to investigating and tracking contacts with existing positive COVID-19 cases, the contact tracing team conducts random checks in many locations in Qatar such as supermarkets, private hospitals, clinics, apartment complexes, and the airport in addition to a number of other locations.
When a large number of positive cases are identified in one location, for example in the dwelling or the workplace, this leads to further investigation and expansion of the circle of tracking of contacts in this setting.
The Ehteraz application launched by the Ministry of Interior has supported the investigation and follow-up efforts of contacts of the Ministry of Public Health as the application provides various services, including classification of users to those who are in good health, suspected, under quarantine or injured. The app also uses the GPS feature and bluetooth to help locate individuals who have been close to positive cases.
In addition to tracking contacts and conducting random checks, Qatar is also conducting COVID-19 tests on people who come to healthcare facilities and show symptoms of infection as well as people returning from abroad.
The MoPH advised people to adhere to all infection control measures including social distancing and regular cleaning of hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser for at least 20 seconds, and avoiding touching the nose, eye or mouth, and wearing a mask when entering a crowded place.