Qatar is recording positive COVID-19 cases with the new variant known as B.1.1.7, also referred to as the UK strain, a senior health official said in a press conference recently.

Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, Dr Abdullatif Al Khal, said they continue to see a significant number of new cases each day with many people requiring admissions to the hospital to manage their symptoms and even admission into ICU for life-saving treatment.

UK strain

According to Dr Al Khal, the combined efforts of the government and members of the community have succeeded in slowing the rate of increase for new COVID-19 cases in Qatar since the introduction of restrictions in February.

READ ALSO: MoPH Confirms Increase in COVID-19 Cases Due to Presence of UK Strain in Qatar

The country’s strict quarantine policy for returning travellers has also ‘delayed’ the introduction of new variants into the country for several months. However, there are rising numbers of cases in the region and in Qatar attributed to the new UK strain. This new variant is more contagious and spread more easily between people than the existing strain and can cause increased severity of the disease.

The good news is that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines being used in the country’s vaccination programme are effective against the new variants.

The UK government has recently added Ethiopia, Oman, Somalia and Qatar to their ‘Red List’, to protect the country against the new variants.

READ ALSO: Four Countries Including Qatar added to England’s Travel Ban Red List

COVID-19 National Vaccination Program

At least 510,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the start of the COVID-19 National Vaccination Program, with 14,000 jabs currently given per day. Dr Al Khal also said that no serious side effects have been reported so far.

READ ALSO: 510,000 COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Administered in Qatar

They also continue to monitor the risk of infection within schools and pleased that schools still continue to strictly enforce preventive measures.

But with government schools beginning their post-exam break, he warned that it is important that parents and children continue to follow the preventive measures throughout the break to prevent a rise in infections among children before returning to the classrooms in a few weeks.

The pace of Qatar’s vaccination programme means there is finally hope for a gradual return to normal here and for people around the world. But he said that this will not happen in the next few weeks or months.

COVID-19 will continue to be a threat to people’s health for the most part of 2021 and until all eligible members of the population are vaccinated, everyone must continue to follow the preventive measures.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Drive-Through Vaccination Centre

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