Sunday, April 26, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Update -- Over 10,000 Cases Now

Last post I mentioned that Qatar was now identifying over 600 cases a day. Then it became over 700 . . . then 800. Today the Ministry of Health reported 929 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 10,287.

No one has died in the last three days thankfully, and now 70-100 are recovering each day. I do expect the number of deaths to increase soon. Based on a 0.2% mortality rate for 10,000 cases there would be 19-23 deaths, Qatar is currently at 10. But it takes time for the virus to take its toll, the last poor soul who died was in hospital for a month before succumbing. A spike in deaths likely won't occur for at least two weeks.

The number of cases is truly worrying. We know that in most Western countries there is underreporting due to lack of testing or only testing people who are ill, but based on the reported numbers, on a per capita basis, Qatar has more cases than Italy. Or Switzerland. Or the US. Or France. (Not as many as Spain though).

Aside from a complete and total lockdown for weeks I don't think there is much more the Qatari Government can do. Most businesses are already shut, people are working from home, people can't enter the country except Qataris who are automatically quarantined for two weeks. The country just has to keep up with the aggressive testing of people in contact with known cases and try to stay on top of things until this starts to subside.


Naturally this was the one day that I had to finally leave the apartment.

Work needed to make some upgrades on my laptop so I had to bring it in. Since I was low on groceries I figured I may as well combine this with a trip to the grocery store, my first outing in something like 35 days.

I chose a store I thought would not be too busy and figured morning would be the quietest time at the store. I brought a mask with me (as Qatar now requires them to enter grocery stores) and was there at 9:30. A man was there wiping down the carts with disinfectant, and to enter the store you first had to stand in front of a thermal camera to check your temperature. I was correct in that it wasn't that busy so it was easy to get around without getting too close to people. I think I bought enough non-perishable food to last me for six weeks.

During the drive I couldn't believe how many signs there were telling people to stay home. In the office building the same thing, and the elevators had signs for things you should do after returning home to reduce the virus risk (leaving your outer clothes by the door, immediately showering etc.) After getting the laptop upgraded at work I went back home, left all of the groceries by the door, left my outer clothing by the door, washed my hands, then my face, then my hands again, then had a shower, threw any towel I touched in the washing machine, washed my hands again, then mopped the floor near my front door with strong disinfectant. I have enough food for a while so I am not even going to touch the new groceries for at least four or five days, which should be enough to kill any virus particles that might be on the bags or the food. I'm not going to touch the discarded clothes either, those can sit there for the next two weeks for all I care.

So I think I'm good for a while, I shouldn't need to leave my apartment for at least six weeks. Unfortunately I will be anxious for the next two weeks -- any sniffle, tiredness, or feeling hot and I'll probably be wondering, "Is this it? Did I catch it?". I think the odds are slim based on the precautions that I took, but I did go outside thus going from 0% chance of catching it to a slim chance. And this while over 900 cases a day are being detected.

Hopefully things get better soon and this is the peak.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Ramadan has started! And a Coronavirus Update.

The announcement has been made, Ramadan is officially here. One thing I haven't mentioned yet is preparing for Ramadan by slowly getting yourself off of the caffeine. When fasting you are not allowed to drink anything from first light until sunset, including water and of course any tea or coffee. Some people forget about that and then on Ramadan go cold turkey from caffeine, which means splitting headaches. I have been slowly reducing the caffeine over the last two weeks, easy enough to do when you're just in the apartment all day, and today it was one weak coffee. I should be fine tomorrow.

It will be a struggle to just sit at home all day and not eat or drink anything. Literally sitting on the couch watching videos or reading I guess. I can't even do any vigorous exercise since I can't drink water. Let's see how it goes.


Qatar is now averaging over 600 cases of coronavirus everyday. Total cases is at 7,764. Sadly one more person died, bringing the total to 10.

In terms of per capita cases I think Qatar is probably 6th or 7th in the world now but I think it is due to more diligent testing by the Government. If someone is found with the virus they find all contacts and test everyone so I think they are finding a lot of cases where the person wasn't showing any symptoms. If it's a worker who gets sick then they test everyone in the accommodation, which could be hundreds. I am guessing that's why the detection rate is so high. As we know, there is a lot of underreporting in Western countries, either due to lack of testing or only testing people who go to the hospital, so a lot of cases get missed from official figures. I have more faith in the accuracy of Qatar's figures than places like Italy or the US. So while the number of cases in Qatar is high it might not be as alarming as what is happening in other places. Still worrisome though. The Qatari Government might be concerned as well, it has now made wearing masks compulsory to go to grocery stores and other places.

I spoke with a Qatari friend of mine who told me that during a news conference given by the Government they pointed out most of the cases were either from workers, where mass testing is taking place, or from Qataris that are in quarantine as they have returned from abroad. There does not appear to be a lot of "free-roaming" cases, especially now that the Government doesn't allow Qataris returning from abroad to "self-quarantine" but we'll see how things are over the next few days. There were also some arrests of Qataris who were violating rules about gathering in groups, the Government is not playing around.

Ramadan Kareem everyone! Stay safe.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Updates -- Statistics from the Government

Another day, another 518 cases. The total for Qatar is now at 6,533. Because this has been a recent wave almost 6,000 of the cases are listed as 'active'. Thankfully no new deaths today.

Yesterday the Government released updated statistics about the infections. It continues to demonstrate how age is a huge factor in susceptibility to the virus and thus why Qatar's young population is the main reason why the crisis is not as severe as other nations. Only 2% of cases in Qatar are people aged 65 or older, and only 5% are aged 55-64.

This has helped hospitals a lot. Yesterday the case count was 6,000 and only 72 people are currently in intensive care. 52 people have left intensive care which means that so far out of 6,000 cases only 124 people needed the ICU and only 9 people have died.

So the number of cases is alarming but so far the vast majority of cases are mild to moderate because most people in Qatar are expats in their 20s-40s. Because Qatar is doing contact tracing I am guessing that many of the cases are people who are not feeling ill at all, they were tested due to contact and found positive.

Contrast that with areas with a more 'normal' age distribution. The Province of British Columbia in Canada gives daily briefings and the numbers are a sobering comparison:

British Columbia [Qatar]

Population: 5 million [2.8 million]

Covid cases: 1,699 [6,533]

Active cases: 660 [5,910]

In intensive care: 49 [72]

Deaths: 86 [9]

This I hope highlights the importance of young people trying to stay home as much as possible instead of selfishly thinking they'll be fine since they're young. If covid gets into a community with elderly people the consequences can be devastating.


Distraction of the Day: The YouTube channel 'Real Royalty' with tons of 1-hour shows about the British Royal Family (including historical ones). Nice documentaries. This channel informed me about Prince Charles Edward, a grandson of Queen Victoria who became a Nazi! Didn't know that story before.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Update -- Virus Cases Are Growing, and Ramadan is Approaching

Things continue to be quite worrisome here, each day the Ministry of Health announces another 300-500+ cases. Today had 567 cases, sadly a new record. The total number is 6,015 now. Thankfully only nine people have died so far.

In terms of cases per million people Qatar is, if we exclude tiny countries like San Marino or Luxembourg, now in the top-10 in the world. Not good. One friend told me that part of the reason is that the Government got new & more accurate testing kits, and have stepped up testing people who have been in contact with a confirmed case. Workers dormitories are likely a major source of spread. Reports from Saudi Arabia and Singapore have also pointed to a large increase in cases due to the crowded living conditions in apartments and dorms where low-income workers live. Not all the cases are low-income workers though, the Ministry said there's been some spread amongst families as well. The death toll is really low right now but it will surely rise soon.

The number of people recovering each day is still around 20-50. I noted in my blog post on the 14th that I expected the number to remain steady or low because the big wave of cases started maybe two weeks ago so it will take time before people in that wave start to recover. But when you get 300-600 new cases each day and only 20-50 are recovering that means additional strain on the healthcare system. The Government has been saying there is a way to go yet and Qatar might not be at the peak.

I was thinking of going for groceries this week but I've decided to wait. I have plenty of food but not necessarily enough for a balanced diet. I have multi-vitamins that I can take if need be and on that basis I can stay put for at least another three weeks.


With all of the news about coronavirus I completely forgot that Ramadan is approaching! It should start this Thursday or Friday. I will fast again this year like I've done for the last eight years or so but this might be the most difficult fast yet. In the past my strategy to not eat was two-fold: do not be in the apartment, and distract myself. So weekdays were easier than weekends, during the weekday I would go to the office to work so I had something to do to take my mind off of food. Weekends I had to come up with something to get me out of the apartment and away from food. Sometimes I would literally mall walk (everything would be shut except the grocery store so you could still walk around). It's too hot to be wandering outside much during the day. I would also eat a small iftar then leave the apartment otherwise I'd keep eating.

Well it's still too hot to walk around outside, not good if you can't drink anything until sunset, and I'm too nervous to wander around where people will be so it looks like I'll somehow have to fast all day while literally sitting feet away from food and water. This will be TOUGH.


Today's distraction: the YouTube channel 'Italia Squisita'. Italian chefs react to the most popular videos of people making the chef's signature regional dishes (hint: everyone gets it wrong, and everyone likes to use garlic even though most Italian dishes don't use it). The reactions are great. Then there are videos where the chefs show you how to make the dish 'properly'. Bolognese sauce, pesto, al fredo, pizza, it's all there. Watching it makes me hungry though.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Update -- Daily Cases Dramatically Climbing

As for the coronavirus unfortunately the number of cases in Qatar is growing rapidly. Yesterday saw a record 392 cases but today smashed that at 560 cases! The total number of cases in the country is now 4,663, which is about 1,665 per million people, similar to the UK. The Government has been testing people who were close to or in contact with known cases so I suspect that most of the cases are in worker dormitories and other crowded housing where the virus could spread easily. The Government has reiterated that everyone should stay home as much as possible.

I'm on Day 29 of staying home. The trend in cases is quite worrying so it looks like I'll be sitting in my apartment for a lot longer. I still have plenty of food (I underestimated just how much I stocked up on since January, I figured I had 3-4 weeks of food but it turned out to be more). I'm starting to run low on some key things yet every time I decided that I will go out to the grocery store in the next couple of days the case count grows so I get nervous and put it off. I can hold out another week or so but after that I will need to stock up on some essentials. Better to wait as long as possible, the longer people wait the greater the chance that treatments will be develop that can help lessen the symptoms and thus give you a better chance if you do become ill. Treatments using blood plasma with antibodies in it looks promising and I know that Qatar is trying that out in hospitals here. I also read some articles today that said an anti-viral drug called remdesivir is showing promising results in initial studies on people, and numerous other drugs are also being tested around the world. So the longer people wait before risking getting the virus the better the chance of surviving it if they do catch it.

Stay home everyone.

Today's distraction: on Youtube look up 'epicurious price points'. This is a set of videos where an expert is given samples of things they specialize in and they have to guess which one is more expensive. The expert explains their analysis and how they concluded which was more expensive and it was actually very informative. They have videos for things like cheese, coffee, chocolate, meats, wine, tea, ice cream and so forth. Give it a watch if you have time on your hands, it will help you be able to tell the difference between good and lower quality products.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Update -- Holding Steady but Daily Cases Still High

The number of cases in Qatar continues to hold steady at around 200 to 250 a day. Today was 197 cases, for a total of 3428. At least no one else passed away, so far the death toll is at seven.

Because of all the focus on the high impact areas such as Italy, Spain or the US, less-impacted countries don't get much mention in the news. Qatar has a lot of cases for its size though. For comparison in the Province of British Columbia (where I'm originally from) they are now averaging around 20 to 25 cases a day and currently have a total of about 1500 cases. That is for a population of 5 million right next door to the US. Qatar has a population of 2.8 million.

Most of the new cases are from the Government's effort to trace and test all contacts of the existing cases. I'm hoping that in time the number of cases from Qataris that arrived in the country recently will slow, now that the Government is mandating quarantine for all arrivals. A Qatari friend's brother just got out of two-week quarantine at a hotel, he had flown in from the UK. He was fine and did not have the virus but many arriving from abroad did.

Other good news is that the number of people recovering every day is going up, now it's around 30-40 a day. Qatar still has a way to go before the recoveries are in line with the number of new cases. I expect recoveries will actually slow down over the next week because after an initial wave of cases (around 300-400) Qatar went through a stage where they were only getting 5-15 new cases a day. Recoveries will pick up again when this 'second big wave' of cases starts to recover, but that will take time.

It looks like I'll be locked down for some time yet, which is annoying. I've been in my apartment for 25 days now but I will need to go out soon to top-up the groceries, unfortunately with this wave of cases I'm going to hold out as long as I can and hopefully the daily cases will start to decrease.

I wish I could say I am doing exciting things while under lockdown but it's pretty monotonous. I work from home so at least that keeps me busy, otherwise it's internet and reading mostly, and using YouTube videos for exercise. Since you are probably in lockdown as well I'll start sharing one website or video series I watched every time I post. Today I recommend going to YouTube and looking up "Sister Wendy's Odyssey", a nun who visits museums and analyzes key pieces of art. It was a hit BBC series and it is actually quite good, she's a great speaker.

I would like to wander out and take photos of a quiet Qatar but I'm not risking it. Even the Ministry of Public Health's ( coronavirus tip of the day was, "Stay at home and do not allow visitors." Ummm, okay. Got it.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Update -- Cases Reducing After a Spike

After a number of days at 200+ cases per day things have started to slow down. The last three days saw around 150 cases a day, today was 136. If the trend continues things will settle down again. Unfortunately Qatar still has had 2,512 cases, which means around 897 cases per million people (US is at 1,437 per million, UK at 1,045 and Canada at 585).

To date only six people have died, which is good. However most of Qatar's cases are fairly new and patients tend to be in the hospital a long time. If the mortality data I've been seeing is correct then Qatar's generally young population would mean a mortality rate of, let's average it to 0.5-0.7%. At the current number of cases that would mean 12-18 deaths so I expect more unfortunate announcements by the Ministry in the coming week.

Qatar is not in a total lockdown yet though many people are expecting it will be coming. All non-essential businesses had to close for the weekend so only grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants (curbside delivery, no eating in) are operating. So it is almost a lockdown this weekend. There are a number of patrols on highways and through neighborhoods to ensure people are staying home and only doing essential travel.

Qatar has also cracked down on Qataris entering the country, now most (maybe all?) have to enter mandatory quarantine for two weeks -- none of this self-quarantine anymore, too many Qataris were ignoring it. Many of the cases are from people in quarantine.

Stay home everyone!

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Update -- the Surge Begins

Yesterday Qatar recorded 250 cases of the virus, the highest daily total yet. Until today, when 279 new cases appeared!

Qatar now has 1,604 cases of coronavirus, a caseload of 573 per million people. By contrast (data is from the John Hopkins dashboard):

USA: 991 per million
Canada: 408
UK: 714
Spain: 2,783
Italy: 2,138
South Korea: 198

Also sadly another person died, an 88-year-old Qatari man. This brings the total dead to four.

Some of the increase in cases is due to Qatar getting larger testing capability. Now they are processing 3,500 to 4,000 tests a day, which is fantastic, and even further expansion is planned. On a per capita basis it's comparable to many Western countries (1,300 to 1,480 tests per million people per day).

Still it is a bit frightening, it looks like Qatar is now entering a period where a huge number of cases are going to appear and possibly swamp the health system. As many of the cases are due to Qataris returning from abroad and not quarantining themselves the virus is likely spreading through the Qatari population. Less than 20 people recovered today so things won't get better until the number of recoveries is greater than new cases.

I'm fine, I have been home for over two weeks now. I was planning to do a grocery top-up next weekend but now I highly doubt I will. I'm definitely staying home until this 'wave' passes.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Update - A Breakdown of the Cases in Qatar

The number of cases increased by 126 today, for a total of 1075 cases. Thankfully no one died today, and 21 more people recovered.

The Government recently released further information about all the cases. They noted that most of this 'second wave' was due to Qataris returning from abroad and not adhering to the self-quarantine, thus infecting their families and others.

The breakdown of cases does seem to tie in with what I expected -- most of the people who catch the virus are reasonably young due to the large expat workforce here. 56% of the cases are people under the age of 45, 18% are 45-55, 10% are 55-64, and only 3% are over the age of 65. This is why despite over 1000 cases only 37 people are in intensive care. It is also likely the main reason why the number of deaths is so low, so far only three have died: two in their late 50s and one in their 80s. All apparently had preexisting medical conditions.

If this trend continues Qatar is in good shape in terms of having adequate medical facilities available. Only 3.7% of cases are currently in ICU so to overrun Qatar's current capabilities there would need to be, I'm guessing, around 15,000+ active cases in the country. As long as people keep 'flattening the curve' that won't happen. And don't forget Qatar will also have over 18,000 hospital beds ready in the next few weeks on top of at least four hospitals dedicated to Coronavirus patients.

Stay home everyone if you can.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Update - Growing Caseload, Further Preparations by the Government

Two days ago the number of cases increased by 88, the second greatest number of daily new cases in Qatar (until today). Yesterday was 54 cases and today was 114 cases. In total Qatar has 949 cases. Sadly two more people died.

This is likely further causing strain on health resources, only 72 have recovered so while we have all these cases only about 10 people a day are recovering, which means more people who potentially need medical care. The Government has converted another clinic into a covid-19 only center.

But the new cases might not be as alarming as at first glance. The Government also announced they are now able to significantly increase the number of tests being done per day. Some days it's at around 2300 tests. This is another reason why the number of cases has increased, because the Government was able to expand testing.

Qatar is not at a complete lockdown and many businesses, as well as offices, can be open. The Government has now mandated that even in the private sector only 20% of employees can work at the place of business, at least 80% must work from home or not show up for work. To help enforce this the Government has also mandated operating/working hours for all businesses: 7am to 1pm. I suspect that is so the authorities can determine if a business is violating the rules. If you work from home though then the regular hours can apply, probably a way for the Government to incentivize businesses to make staff work from home.

Still more Qataris getting arrested for violating self-quarantine. A lot of Qataris returned from abroad recently and were mandated to self-quarantine but many continue to ignore it. Given many Qataris don't listen apparently the Government announced that Qataris are no longer allowed to leave the country. "Apparently" because some Qataris told me about it on social media but I did an English language Google news search and don't see anything about it. Not that there would be a reason for the Government to announce it in English.

Looks like Qatar is getting a wave of cases now. Stay home everyone!