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Doha Family editorial: In praise of Qatar’s response to Covid-19

Dealing with a viral disease outbreak in a nation is no easy feat. This is especially true when the pathogen in question is so new that there is no standard treatment to manage it, nor a vaccine to prevent it. Or when it is so contagious that each infected person could potentially infect 2–2.5 individuals—a rate higher than seasonal influenza, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite these challenges, it is our view at Doha Family that Qatar’s response to the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has been stellar.

When the virus had just started spreading in the Middle East, Qatar geared up its healthcare system and other national resources to prepare in case it ended up in these shores. Quarantine facilities were set up, and private flights were arranged to evacuate citizens and their families from Iran, which was the regional hotspot for Covid-19.

As soon as the first positive cases were confirmed in early March, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced this information to the public. After that, detailed updates on the state’s response to the spread of the virus and the latest evidence-based recommendations to deal with it had been publicised in the local media through regular press releases and conferences.

As the nature of the outbreak evolved, Qatar’s action plan to fight it quickly followed suit. When community spread took hold, the government issued a decree to close all schools and universities to students, until further notice. Shortly after the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, Qatar authorities galvanised their approach even further by largely suspending public life in the country. Jobs had gone remote, and only businesses and services deemed essential (such as those providing food and medical aid) had been allowed to continue operating as usual. Even then, strict hygiene and social-distancing measures had been implemented to keep everyone safe—from the people working on the frontlines to those accessing their vital services. Inbound flights to the country had also been paused, except for those carrying citizens returning from travel.

Furthermore, Qatar’s thorough disease testing and surveillance strategy has been nothing short of outstanding. Citizens and residents testing positive for Covid-19 are promptly isolated from the public and given free medical care for their condition. Contacts of positive cases are also traced and quarantined, in addition to being monitored and tested for the virus. Plus, violating the terms of quarantine is now a legally punishable offence. Additionally, the nation’s state-of-the-art health facilities have been testing thousands of samples for Covid-19 daily.

On a global scale, nations that have implemented early testing and isolation have had a firmer grip on the outbreak and are seeing a quicker decline in the rate of infections. Qatar is clearly heading in that direction.

When this pandemic ends, we will see that it was a watershed moment for Qatar on the world stage. This country’s accolade-worthy response to a crisis that shook humanity and changed the world as we once knew it would not be able to go unnoticed.