Thursday, January 27, 2022

Qatar Coronavirus Updates - Omicron Subsiding, Restrictions Lifted

Community cases in Qatar are dropping as fast as they were increasing a couple of weeks ago, from 2770 a day six days ago to 1621 today. Recoveries are now way outpacing new cases, over 4000 people recovered today. Even hospitalizations are now below 400, the daily rate of new patients is under 30, but unfortunately the number in ICU is still quite high. Makes sense, you're usually not in ICU for a day or two, those people could be there for weeks. Typically 1-2 people are dying every day now but they all appear to be quite elderly, 80s and 90s seem to be the common ages. 

So the Government announced an end to the restrictions that were put in place when Omicron started to take hold. Schools are back open, restaurants are back to normal capacity, restrictions limiting the amount of people in malls are revoked, and offices can be back to 100% of staff. What I call the 'base' restrictions will remain, such as mask wearing and showing your tracker app. More countries were moved to the travel red list though and I'm guessing it'll be a while, a month or more, before they are taken off it after the Omicron wave passes through.

I think too many people have jumped on that Omicron is 'milder' to mean it's not dangerous and they are totally wrong. The US reported over 3,000 deaths yesterday, numbers more akin to the peak of the Delta wave in 2021, and hospitals across the country are swamped. Vaccination is your best defense and it's so bizarre how many people are fighting it tooth and nail.

Looking at the death rates between Canada and the US it really is shocking to see the differences. Canada has way higher vaccination rates, and better embraced mask wearing, social distancing etc, and it shows. Here's a comparison of deaths per 100,000 people in a selection of US States and Canadian Provinces (and Qatar):

362 Mississippi (highest in US)

356 Arizona

350 New Jersey

346 Alabama

331 New York

320 Michigan

280 Montana

274 North Dakota

202 Minnesota

151 Quebec (highest in Canada)

140 Washington

127 Maine

110 Manitoba (next highest in Canada)

84 Vermont

81 Hawaii (lowest in US)

79 Alberta

75 Ontario

49 British Columbia

28 New Brunswick

23 Qatar

<15 rest of the Maritimes and Newfoundland

The differences are pretty sobering. The death rate in Ontario is one-quarter what it is across the border in Michigan. Quebec has the highest rate in Canada but it's less than half of neighbouring New York. Washington State has done well, for America, but across the border in BC it's around one-third of that. In fact, only Vermont could claim to have a lower death rate than the province nearest it (Quebec). Qatar is sure looking pretty good too. It demonstrates that vaccination and enacting measures to limit the spread of the virus did work.

Anyway, might stay at home for just a few more days, then cautiously go out, re-stock groceries, and so forth.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Qatar Coronavirus Updates - Wave May Have Peaked

Cases have been slowly declining, from 3300 community cases in a day to 3000 and today 2770. Positive test rate is at around 9%. Hospitalizations are down slightly but there is now more than 100 people in ICU. There were also a few more deaths this week, but I think they were all at least 70 years old.

While it's not the most ideal source, a friend of a friend in the healthcare sector said many in ICU were due to the more noxious Delta variant. With all the news about Omicron everyone seems to have forgotten that Delta is still around. This also has implications for how long you should quarantine, the US has moved to five days and while that might be okay for an Omicron infection for Delta it is more than likely you'll still be contagious five days after showing symptoms. You'll probably still be sick after five days. Delta is not something you want to be spreading around. In Qatar while they do subsequent sequencing to see which variant someone has they do not disclose that to the person. I assume it's because they do not get the results right away so it doesn't matter too much to inform the person. When I got sick with Covid last year I was never told which variant is was (original Covid, Alpha or Beta were all possibilities).

I'm still hunkered down but glad to see that this Covid wave might be receding. I wouldn't mind getting out and seeing friends and shopping for groceries but at the moment it's still too early for that. I can easily live off my existing groceries for another 2-3 weeks, I stocked up on non-perishables as soon as I heard about Omicron.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Qatar Coronavirus Updates -- Cases Steady but Still High

The last three days the community cases have been steady at 3300-3500 a day. Given the number of tests being done the positivity rate is around 10%, quite high and indicates that we're not out of the woods yet. God, it was a month ago that I was mentioning how case rates of 140-170 a day were a bit too high for my liking. Wow, did I underestimate how contagious Omicron would be.

Around 90-100 people go to hospital every day but if you're vaccinated Omicron symptoms are usually not too severe and you're out of the hospital in one to two days. That said the numbers in hospital are steadily increasing: 628 in hospital (about 550 three days ago), and 91 in ICU (67 three days ago). A few more people have passed away unfortunately but today the announcement was especially sad, one of the victims was a 3-week old baby. The Government only gives the age and no other details.

Two days ago a Ministry of Health spokesperson noted that all of the deaths in the last week (two?) were people who were not vaccinated. Given the ages of some of the people who died, some were in their 80s or 90s, that surprises me that they weren't vaccinated. Unfortunately while Qatar does have over 90% of eligible people vaccinated (ages 12+, Pfizer is approved for kids 5-12 but rollout would happen this month) that would still be around 200,000 unvaccinated people aged 12+ in the country. I know at least two people who still have not been vaccinated. I hope, if they catch Covid, that everything will be okay cause if at this stage you aren't vaccinated then it's on you. It's not like you don't know that vaccines offer protection.

I'm still hunkering down at home. I do need to go to the office but it's home to the office, eat lunch at my desk, and straight back home afterward. Work is pretty good about masks, sanitizer, distancing etc.  and I hope that over the next week the wave will subside.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Qatar Coronavirus Updates - Omicron Still Sweeping the Country

Cases continue to climb but more slowly. 2 days ago it was 3500 community cases, and in the last two days around 3800. Is this the peak? Not sure about that, we'll see.

Despite the growth in cases hospitalizations have stabilized and are still around 550. ICU numbers are up though, from 51 three days ago to 67 now. Four people have died in the last three days, but three of them were older than 80, one was 91. Even vaccinated people at that age are at risk.

And the title is a bit misleading as it assumes everything is Omicron now. The deadlier Delta variant continues to have a presence in Qatar. In a news report yesterday a Government spokesperson said that around 20% of cases were Delta. Bad news in that Delta is a nastier strain, but on the other hand vaccines offer better protection against it.

I cannot believe how many people I know who are sick with Covid right now. Most of my friends, and probably 20-30% of the office, are infected or recently recovered. I've been generally isolating since returning from my trip, only going to the fairly empty office by car, so my days are either entirely in the apartment or apartment-work-apartment. I have not gone anywhere else for the last nine days. Given the case rates though I think I'll need to keep it up for at least another week, if the wave subsides significantly by then. Omicron is so contagious that it will have infected most of the population soon, at which point the wave will die out for lack of people to infect. Just a matter of laying low until then.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Qatar Coronavirus Updates - Omicron Wave Continues

 Daily community cases continue to climb, 2 days ago it was 2,800, yesterday was 3,000 and today is 3,300. I think today's was a record for the entire pandemic in Qatar, not surprising since Omicron is breaking case records wherever it goes. Over 550 people are hospital and 51 in the ICU, one person in their 60s died today. What worries me is the delay between hospitalizations and deaths, in New York data showed that hospitalizations peaked two weeks after the cases, and ICU 18 days later. That might mean in terms of hospitalizations we are only seeing the beginning. However over 90% of the eligible population in Qatar is vaccinated so that should help, if vaccinated people with Omicron wind up in hospital it is typically for only 1-2 days so hospitals have a high turnover of patients (50-90 are entering hospital every day, but overall numbers are increasing by 10-30).

The detected cases are surely an underreporting of the actual figures. Not because the Government is manipulating the data but (1) due to issues with delays in getting PCR tests many people are using in-home rapid tests, but if they are positive then the Government wouldn't know unless it was reported to them and (2) Omicron is milder so many more people are asymptomatic and don't even realize that they have Covid.  I know of people in both categories and in the latter case they only knew when they went to a clinic for something else and the clinic tested them as part of protocol. They felt totally fine and had no idea they had Covid.

Qatar has announced new guidelines for testing, now most returning travelers can do a rapid test instead of a PCR, and in other cases people don't need PCR tests anymore. This is to relieve the burden on the testing facilities as they are under strain and have a huge backlog of tests. My recent PCR result (negative) took over four days. By then if you had Omicron you'd probably know and have mostly recovered.

So we do not appear to be at the peak yet. It could be another 1-2 weeks of case increases until things start to decline.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Qatar Coronavirus Updates - Omicron Sweeping the Country

In my last post there were around 1000 community cases in one day. Since then it went to 1600. Then 2000. And now 2500, in one day. The growth in cases is absolutely crazy! Three more people I know have tested positive, and in two cases their families have as well. No one has died though in the last few days, which is good.

In two years of this pandemic the only time I knew people who got Covid was during the same event that I was infected from (ultimately five of us) and one other friend at around the same time. That was it. In these last couple of weeks I now know seven people who were infected, two more suspected cases, six people at the office, and their family members. It's wild how contagious this is.

I got my booster two weeks ago so for all I know I got it and had no symptoms. I have PCR test results pending but I'm now on day 4 of getting the results due to the backlog at the lab. 30-40 thousand people are getting tested every day now and it is causing delays getting the results. 

I haven't left the apartment for the last four days, looks like hunkering down is the way to go.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Qatar Coronavirus Updates - The Omicron Wave is Here

Man, what a difference a week makes. From 200 community cases a day it went to 300, then 500, then 600. And today it was over 1000 community cases in addition to over 600 cases from travelers. In my last post I mentioned that 162 people were now in hospital and 18 in the ICU, which was a big increase. Well now it's 409 and 32! Omicron is milder but it infects so many people so quickly that it can still overwhelm health care facilities. Testing clinics are seeing huge numbers of people getting tested, and the Government has reintroduced mask mandates, delayed school opening by a week, as well as converting at least one hospital to a Covid-only facility. The health authorities are also asking people not to utilize emergency facilities or ambulances for mild to moderate cases. 

One friend has tested positive and another friend's elderly mother also caught Covid (apparently she has mild symptoms and is resting at home, which is good news). And everyone knows people at their workplace who tested positive. It's totally crazy.

I am hunkering down at home now but it'll be a nervous week as it is totally possible that I might have been exposed sometime in the last few days given I was out and about -- Omicron spreads so easily even a chance encounter could have done it. Here's hoping I'm fine and that recent booster dose has kicked in.