Saturday, October 16, 2021

Qatar Coronavirus Updates – Getting Back to Normal, Awaiting Vaccines for Children

 In Qatar things continue to improve and restrictions continue to be lifted.  Now the country is at roughly 40 community cases a day and almost everyone who can be vaccinated has been (83% of the total population has received the vaccine).  Unfortunately there’s still about 40 people in hospitals, and 10 in ICU. A person in their 80s passed away yesterday from it.

Travel restrictions have changed in that most countries are now on the “green list”.  One twist though is that you no longer need a PCR test to fly into Qatar – but you do have to get one within 36 hours of arrival. I think Qatar is tired of people getting fake or questionable PCR tests in other countries, now you must have a test done here.

From a peak of about 40,000 doses of vaccine given out every day we’re now at 3-5 thousand doses, and I think that includes people now getting booster doses.  Almost everyone who is eligible has the vaccine now, so everyone is waiting for the announcement regarding kids aged 5-11.  There are rumors of course, we could see something in the next couple of weeks, but once it is approved either in the U.S. are the EU it’ll be rolled out in Qatar for sure. I don’t think the uptake for children will be as high as it has been for adults, my guess is some vaccinated parents will still be a little bit leery of giving it to small children, but even with moderate take up the percentage of the population vaccinated should reach 90%. Between that and boosters there’s not much more that can be done.

While restrictions on wearing masks outdoors have largely been lifted almost everyone continues to wear them, which is fine with me. I still get a bit anxious about COVID at times, especially when there are situations that I consider higher risk.  Recently someone I know just got back from visiting Russia, a country that is in the midst of a huge COVID wave and has real issues with vaccination rates. My friend is vaccinated but even so for the next while I’ll try to stay away from him and his friend group just to make sure they aren’t a “breakthrough” case, which increases the risk that they could be giving it to other people. Getting a PCR test within 36 hours of landing isn’t really a guarantee, I think if you are exposed to COVID it could take a few days for you to build up enough virus to show up on a PCR test.

While the pandemic continues to rage in other parts of the world, here in Qatar it might be nearing an end. We’ll see once vaccinations are rolled out to children. I remain hopeful.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Qatar Coronavirus Updates – Restrictions Eased, Booster Doses Rolled-Out

Daily cases in Qatar have been consistently dropping, and community cases are now at around the 40 to 70 range.  With that the Government has announced the easing of most of the restrictions, most notably that offices and workplaces can be at 100% capacity, and it is no longer required to wear masks outdoors unless you are at a crowded venue such as a marketplace or school.  Use of the Ehteraz tracking app to get into places is still required.  Travel restrictions/testing requirements remain in place.

I think Qatar is reaching a stage where it has done all it can and we are slowly approaching “living with the virus”.  The vaccination rate for the eligible population is over 90%, and the government has just announced that a booster dose will be available for anyone over the age of 50, with plans to later roll it out to the rest of the population.  You’re not eligible for a booster dose until at least eight months have passed since your second dose, so I won’t be getting one until February.

I think with the Delta variant the most important number is vaccination rates.  You really do need high levels of vaccination to get a grip on the Delta variant, and sadly numerous countries around the world have shown that vaccination rates of 50 to 70% is just not good enough.  In North America the contrast between different regions in Canada and the United States is striking, higher vaccination rates have led to fewer hospitalizations and deaths in those regions. Even in Canada, where the worst provinces for vaccination rates are at amounts some U.S. states can only dream of, there is a big difference in hospitalizations and deaths for areas around 70% vaccination vs areas above 80%.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I don’t think many people in Qatar appreciate the great job the Government has done handling the pandemic. Testing capabilities, vaccine roll-outs, willingness to listen to the science and not be pressured to open things up too early, willingness to extend lockdowns and restrictions if case numbers don’t improve, rapid allocation and upgrades of quarantine and medical facilities, willingness to publish the data and not try to alter it to “look good” -- the Government did what it could in a fast, coordinated manner. It’s the numbers that tell the story, whether vaccination rates, the low deaths per capita numbers, economic indicators, all look really good compared to much of the world. I realize that the families of the 605 people in Qatar who tragically died from COVID might see things a different way, but the death toll could have been far, far worse.

A tragic case in point – Bermuda.  Apparently, the vaccination rate for the eligible population is at 66% and they are currently going through a horrible time with the Delta variant.  During September forty-one people passed away from COVID, more than during the rest of the pandemic combined, and while 41 might not sound like a lot the island only has 60,000 people. It is the equivalent of 227,000 people dying in the US, or 26,000 people dying in Canada, or 1,775 people dying in Qatar. In one month. Qatar has had 605 people die from COVID during the entire pandemic. And Bermuda has this horrible death rate despite two-thirds of adults being vaccinated, needless to say most of the hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people. Delta is no joke.

Qatar still does have some restrictions in place, and I don’t expect them to be removed until after children receive vaccinations, after which I guess things will move to a “new normal” where we all learn to just live with the virus. Maybe mid-2022?