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?

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