Saturday, November 28, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Updates -- Vaccine Hope

Cases are still steady at 150-180 community cases each day, with 40-60 additional cases a day from travelers in quarantine. I wish the cases would lower but they stubbornly stay at the same levels. There have been 1-3 deaths a week but at least the second wave appears to be over in neighbouring Bahrain. Cases loads in other GCC countries are still fairly high.  I don't think it'll really start to go down until a vaccine is circulated.

Which of course is the big news, trials of three different vaccines have completed with great results and now all of the talk is when countries will receive them, how many doses they will get, and how they will be distributed. Talk in Qatar is the country could receive a vaccine in late-December, and a well-connected Qatari that I spoke to says the Government has already drafted up its priority list for who will receive the vaccine. Some people have wondered about whether enough people will take it or not, what if people refuse, etc. but they are thinking like Westerners. If the Qatar Government demands a expat take the vaccine your choices are: do it, have a medical exemption, or leave the country. This place isn't going to play around and cater to anti-vaxxer nonsense. So things could be back to normal soon. I expect February or March but a friend of mine in the medical field figures it'll take longer to get enough of the vaccine to create herd immunity, likely by June or July 2021. So there is still a ways to go.

Meanwhile some people are planning trips to the Maldives thanks to a travel bubble that was set up at two resorts. The resorts are separate islands and will only have guests from Qatar and the staff have already quarantined for two weeks. So you fly from Qatar to the Maldives on Qatar Airways (you have to book the resorts from Qatar Airways), go straight to the resort and stay there, full board. When you fly back to Qatar you don't need to quarantine because you were only at the resort. It's a neat idea and a number of people here are planning trips. Not me though, the minimum stay is five days and I'm not the kind of person who can just sit on a beach for five days. 

No trips for me, I'm staying put. Just need to be careful for a few more months.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Qatar Coronavirus Updates - No Second Wave, Unlike Most of the World

 COVID cases are slowly lowering, now most days it is under 200. 30-50 cases are from travellers in quarantine so if you factor those out Qatar is consistently in the 140-170 cases a day now. Testing hasn't slowed down though, 8,000-10,000 tests are done everyday. People are getting tested for any type of flu or cold symptoms, a friend of mine did yesterday when he came down with a cold (he tested negative). With the border shut due to the blockade as long as Qatar keeps quarantining travellers arriving by air, and mandating protective measures like masks and use of the Etheraz app, there shouldn't be a second wave.

I sometimes use COVID statistics to remind people here just how much the Qatari Government has done. Many people do not really grasp just how well Qatar has weathered this storm and how all of its work has kept things from being much worse than it could (and should) have been. We are all aware of the second waves rampaging through Europe, the Middle East, and the US and it's bad. To think a few months ago I was pondering if the EU would put Qatar on its "low-risk" countries list, now Qatar has fewer cases per day (per capita) than most European countries. 

But the US in particular is a shocking comparison. The US is a very large country so while the overall average is scary when you get to looking at individual states you can really see how it is, or was back when the northeast had that devastating first wave.

Qatar is currently at a 4.77% infection rate, only Bahrain is higher. The US is at 3.1%, UK at 1.75% and Canada at 0.7%, but when you look at individual US states, the worst are:

North Dakota: 7.12%

South Dakota: 6.25%

Iowa: 4.84%

Wisconsin: 4.59%

Nebraska: 4.25%

So around 7% of the population of the Dakotas has caught COVID. Wow!

But it's the death rate that is tragic.  Qatar is at 82 per million people, quite low compared to the West. Canada is at 278, UK at 721, France at 619 and Italy, burned in peoples' minds as one of the worst-hit countries, is at 685. So how bad was that initial wave in the US northeast? Here's the top five US States by death rate:

New Jersey: 1,865

New York 1,739

Massachusetts: 1,472

Connecticut: 1,310

Louisiana: 1,298

As far as I can tell all five of those States have death rates higher than any country in the world. New York and New Jersey have nearly triple the death rate of Italy. If Qatar had a similar death rate an additional 5,000 people would have died (currently it is at 232 dead).

Qatar quelled the pandemic and treated everyone in hospital for free. It does deserve recognition for its efforts.