Qatar health official calls for lockdown as COVID cases rise

Ahmed al-Mohammed of the Hamad Medical Corporation says a return to full lockdown is the best way to stem the spread of the virus.

Souq Waqif Doha, Qatar [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
On Tuesday, the country reported 720 new cases and three deaths [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
Correction30 Mar 2021
A previous version of this story said Qatar has so far reported more than 1.7 million positive coronavirus cases. That was incorrect. Qatar has reported more than 179,000 cases.

A Qatari health official has called for a full lockdown in the country to stem the spread of the coronavirus as the country continues to report an increasing number of infections on a daily basis.

Ahmed al-Mohammed, acting chairman of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) Intensive Care Units, said on Monday that Qatar was witnessing a peak in the number of cases since the first wave, including a reportedly large number of infections among children under the age of 14.

“The number of cases in the intensive care units in February was 53. We now have more than 300 cases,” al-Mohammed said in an interview on Qatar TV. “Look at the jump [in the number of cases] over the past few months. Even during the peak of the pandemic last year, we didn’t have that many cases in intensive care.”

On Tuesday, the country reported 720 new cases and three deaths with daily totals steadily rising in recent weeks. Since the start of the pandemic, Qatar has reported more than 179,000 positive cases, including 289 deaths.

“A full lockdown, such as what we had last summer where the roads were empty and people worked from home, is the best way to stem the spread of the virus,” al-Mohammed said.

“As long as people continue to interact with one another, attend workplaces and gather at events, the virus will continue to spread. We did not witness such numbers at the peak of the first wave.

“To put this into perspective, at the peak of the first wave in May 2020, we had about 220 patients in intensive care. It is clear that people are becoming sicker and experiencing more severe symptoms in this second wave of the virus.”

Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health said the circulation of the UK variant of the coronavirus has contributed significantly to the increasing number of cases.

Last week, Qatar announced a series of coronavirus-related restrictions on education, leisure and business activities, including closing gyms and restricting restaurant capacity.

Last month, authorities announced a 32-point plan to curb the surge that raised fears of a new wave of infections.

Source: Al Jazeera