Faruk Mohammad Azad, Assistant Executive Director for Business Development at Hamad Medical Corporation and one of the speakers at a recent panel discussion at QF partner university Georgetown University in Qatar on dealing with COVID-19, speaks about how, when people’s health and safety is the priority, the stakes are high.
It has been over two months since Qatar implemented a series of measures to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The country’s government has immediately raised public awareness via numerous campaigns, provided quarantine facilities, created extra field hospitals, and controlled the spread via closing schools, issuing stay-at-home orders and travel bans.
The good news is that we were - and we are - prepared.
Our healthcare system is strong, and we wasted no time in adding new tools to provide us with an even more robust defense against the virus. From the beginning, testing has been available, and those infected are receiving holistic treatment. Government and healthcare workers are working around the clock to fight the pandemic, and Hamad Medical Corporation has repurposed existing resources and human capital to expand its critical care and ICU capacity.
We have increased capacity by an additional 3.000 hospital beds and an additional 700 new ICU beds, as well as immediately opening two new hospitals which are dedicated COVID-19 treatment centers. Meanwhile, a field hospital in the Industrial Area was built and opened, and is now receiving patients, with a dedicated section for testing suspected COVID-19 cases.
Government entities have come together to run social media campaigns that inform and educate the public, providing information regarding the spread of the virus, best hygiene practices, and steps to take for prevention.
The Ministry of Public Health has also hosted workshops for the national volunteering campaign “For Qatar” which was launched to support the efforts in combating coronavirus. Over 30,000 volunteers are supporting the community and helping to ease the strain on Qatar’s resources during the pandemic. These volunteers are trained to support medical staff, raise public health awareness, and provide logistical support, among the tasks they are performing.
From the outset, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Crisis Management and the Ministry of Public Health have used the crisis as an opportunity to adopt a digital strategy that uses the latest technologies. Government entities have come together to run social media campaigns that inform and educate the public, providing information regarding the spread of the virus, best hygiene practices, and steps to take for prevention. Additionally, the government has released the Ehteraz app, designed to help track virus transmission chains and give residents the latest information on COVID-19.
To handle the sudden wave of potential COVID-19 cases, we also created an optimized and universal app, called KASHIF, for COVID-19 swab data. This is a very important tool for the early detection, and therefore rapid treatment, of positive cases. The KASHIF app uses scanning technology for error-free data entry, immediate OTP verification, and real-time data verification and integration to various healthcare systems.
Other measures we have taken include the use of drones and robots equipped with sophisticated algorithms to ensure that social distancing guidelines are adhered to. And the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs and Ministry of Transport and Communications, in cooperation with Qatar Red Crescent Society, have provided over 1,000 computers to Mekaines Quarantine Facility under the ‘Better Connections’ initiative, which will help workers in quarantine to communicate with their families and loved ones from their homes.
I encourage everyone in Qatar to continue displaying a high level of discipline and follow the guidelines and recommendations of the Ministry of Public Health, because doing so is for the benefit of us all.
I encourage everyone in Qatar to continue displaying a high level of discipline and follow the guidelines and recommendations of the Ministry of Public Health, because doing so is for the benefit of us all. The need for national cohesion and unity are now more important than ever, and together, through working and acting in cooperation and using the latest technology, we can overcome this pandemic and emerge as a stronger Qatar.