Saturday, May 29, 2021

Qatar Coronavirus Updates - Phase 1 of Restrictions Easing on the Back of Lower Case Numbers

Yesterday some restrictions were eased, as planned by the Govt. Restaurants, hair salons and so forth can now open in limited capacity. 

Because I am not full vaccinated I figured I was out of luck and would not be able to go anywhere until mid-June but I saw an announcement today from the Ministry of Health that people who recovered from COVID and have had one dose of vaccine can have the same privileges as fully vaccinated people, I just need to show my ID and vaccination card. So I guess I can go to restaurants and cafes again!

And cases in Qatar continue to move downward as vaccination rates pick up. Yesterday was a grand total of 156 cases, of which 98 were community cases, the first time in months it has been that low. Only 234 people are in hospital now and 133 in ICU. It wasn't all that long ago that over 1,000 people were in hospital. 

Just across the water in Bahrain things continue to spiral out of control. The county imposed a heavy lockdown a few days ago as cases are now around 3,000 a day and about 20 people are dying every day there. Scary.

If Qatar can keep things under control then I expect in the next month over 70% of the population will have been vaccinated. Right now 46.7% have been fully vaccinated and an additional 16% have one dose. I am not sure at what percentage herd immunity kicks in (it varies from virus to virus) but Qatar should be on track to achieving it within 1-2 months.  

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Got My First Vaccine Dose!

This week I finally was able to get my first dose of vaccine. Under Qatar's rules if you came down with COVID you couldn't get vaccinated for 90 days and that was in May. Managed to get an appointment (two weeks later) and went to the clinic to get vaccinated. I was told it could be a long wait, some of my friends had to wait an hour or two, but it was pretty smooth and I was in front of the nurse in about 20 minutes. Qatar only uses Pfizer and Moderna but which one you get is dependent on availability. I was offered Moderna and I didn't mind, studies are showing that both are more effective than other vaccines at protecting from COVID and the variants going around. Probably because they are both mRNA vaccines, whereas the others were developed using different techniques.

Arm was sore for a few days and two nights later I had a mild headache and difficulties sleeping but that was it overall for side effects. Next dose is four weeks after the first, so by mid-June I'll have the second dose.

Cases of COVID in Qatar have stabilized, every day now there are around 150-250 community cases. The Government is hesitant to relax restrictions as they are concerned that cases will increase due to people socializing over the Eid holiday (last week) so we'll see how things develop.

The Government is right to be concerned because next door, in Bahrain, things are getting out of hand. In the past week the country has been averaging around 2,500 cases and over 12 deaths a day, in a country of 1.7m people! That's roughly the equivalent of the US having 475,000 cases and 2,000 deaths a day. Not good. I spoke to a Bahraini about it and he thinks it is because the country did not enforce as severe a lockdown as in Qatar (Bahrain imposed some restrictions during Eid so when they announced they would people rushed around visiting relatives and stocking up on goods) and also because they primarily used the Sinopharm vaccine, and it's effectiveness is now being questioned. Hopefully things improve there soon.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel, as vaccinations continue things will get under control. Hopefully I can travel this summer.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Qatar Coronavirus Updates -- Restrictions to Start Lifting May 28

Yesterday the Government announced a four-phase plan for lifting the current restrictions, with Phase 1 coming into effect May 28 and the other phases at three, six and nine weeks later. That means the current restrictions will stay for another two-and-a-half weeks, and over the Eid period (starting Wednesday or Thursday).


The Government was encouraged by the drop in cases. They are still trending downward and today there were fewer than 300 community cases -- a great improvement from the last 4-5 weeks. We're not out of the woods yet, sadly deaths are still occurring, six yesterday and four today. About 500 people remain in hospital with over 200 in ICU. The Government did mention that so far they have not found the Indian variant of the virus in the country.

One of the interesting things that the Government is doing is that the lifting of restrictions is geared towards vaccinated people. Schools and nurseries can't open unless all staff are vaccinated. Restaurants can have limited indoor seating but only for people who are vaccinated. Indoor gatherings will be limited to 5 people if all are vaccinated. Theme parks, leisure centres, cinemas and gyms can open at limited capacity and only for vaccinated people. Barbers as well, vaccinated clients only.

Basically Qatar is saying, "Don't want to get vaccinated? Then stay home."  Sucks a bit for me as my appointment for my first dose is May 17th so I won't be fully vaccinated until June, but I still support what the Government is doing.

As everything regarding vaccination is centralized with the Health Ministry it is easy to see who is vaccinated. The Ehteraz tracking app that everyone is required to have indicates if you are vaccinated. No need to worry about people having fake vaccination papers and stuff. 

So I'll be under the restrictions a couple of weeks longer than everyone else. I don't mind, as long as we get through this pandemic.

Monday, May 03, 2021

15 Years in Qatar!

Wow, it's been 15 years now. I landed in Qatar in May 2006 to start a new job, expecting to be here maybe 3 or 4 years and here we are 15 years later. 

And to celebrate I stayed home. No restaurants, no malls. I don't have a liquor license anymore so no celebratory drinks either. 2021 is still not a time for celebrations and socializing.

Covid-wise things are still not great in Qatar. Community cases are at around 300-500 a day and 7-10 people die each day. It is sad looking at the news and knowing that people in their 40s and 50s are passing away from it every day, something that was uncommon last year. COVID is no longer an illness that puts people at 65+ at risk, now it's 40+, maybe even 35+. Scary. The UK variant and South African variant are here and I'm sure it's only a matter of time for the Indian one gets hold. The Qatar Government has placed a mandatory hotel quarantine for anyone arriving from South Asia, even if they are vaccinated, I assume in a bid to stop the Indian variant circulating in the community. If vaccination can stop the variants then Qatar just needs to get through the next month or so but it goes to show how contagious the new variants are that there are so many cases here despite the vaccination rollout.

Qatar has stepped up vaccination though, from around 25 thousand doses a day to 30 thousand. That means up to 100,000 people will have received their second dose each week, pretty good for a country of 2.6 million. I believe over 500,000 people have been fully vaccinated already.  I have an appointment in two weeks for my first dose. It will be either Pfizer or Moderna as those are the only two given in Qatar. That means by mid-June I will receive my second dose and can relax a little. A recent article in the Guardian shows that the number of doses given out so far in Europe is around 33 per 100 people, though in the UK it is a fantastic 73.4 doses per 100 people, which is why case rates and deaths in the UK are now quite low (yesterday they had only one COVID death). The US is also at 70+. Canada is at 36-37. In Qatar it is at 61 doses per 100 people, well ahead of the EU average. 

Celebrations will maybe be in June. For now I am trying to stay safe.