Qatar sees spike in COVID cases as it enters ‘third wave’

Health official says cases rising since November but significant spike seen in the last two weeks.

Skyline, Doha, Qatar
Qatar has reported more than 252,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 618 deaths, since the start of the pandemic [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Qatar is witnessing the start of a third coronavirus wave, a spike in cases fuelled by the Omicron variant, a health official says.

Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of vaccination at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), said in a televised interview on Sunday that “most of the new COVID-19 cases are related to the Omicron variant”, adding that cases have been rising in the country since November but a significant spike was seen in the last two weeks.

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“According to the primary available information, Omicron is a fast spreader but the symptoms are mild or moderate without any serious complications,” al-Bayat said on Qatar TV.

Qatar has reported more than 252,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 618 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.

It has also administered more than five million vaccine doses and launched a booster campaign late last year.

“Most of the cases reported recently were in two groups: those who did not receive vaccination, including children, and those who took the two doses more than 6 months ago,” she added.

Qatar is due to host the football World Cup later this year, the first time the tournament will take place in a Middle East country.

In the lead-up to the event, Qatar hosted several sporting events, including its inaugural Formula One GP and the FIFA Arab Cup that concluded on December 18 last year.

Only fully vaccinated individuals were allowed to attend the football tournament.

But while organisers called for health and safety protocols and regulations to be followed at the events, huge crowds and a widespread lack of social distancing was witnessed, raising fear among residents of a resurgence of the outbreak in the country.

The 2021 FIFA Arab Cup final between Tunisia and Algeria in Qatar last month [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Last month, al-Bayat said the rise in cases was due to “negligence by people”.

“When we said that a person is allowed to not wear a face mask in open places, there was a condition – like these places should not be crowded. When people started neglecting wearing face masks, we observed an increase in the cases of COVID-19, seasonal flu and asthma.”

On December 31, Qatar announced new restrictions, including the need to wear a mask indoors and outdoors, amid the spike in cases.

Source: Al Jazeera