WATCH: MoPH conducts COVID-19 environmental testing study to enhance contact tracing
As Qatar moves toward the final phase of the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, it continues to intensify its efforts to limit the spread of the disease.
While it has been successful in flattening the curve, the country has been constantly urging the community to realize their collective responsibility in overcoming the challenge.
Adherence to preventive and precautionary measures is of utmost importance in controlling the virus, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reminds every day in its statements.
As relevant authorities continue their monitoring, detection and management efforts to protect the health of the population, MoPH has launched a COVID-19 environmental testing pilot, in partnership with a number of governmental, educational and research institutions in Qatar.
The aim of the study is to support and enhance surveillance and contact tracing efforts.
The Ministry of Public Health launched a COVID-19 environmental testing pilot, in partnership with a number of governmental, educational and research institutions in Qatar, to support and enhance surveillance and contact tracing efforts. #QNA— Qatar News Agency (@QNAEnglish) August 12, 2020
The pilot phase used innovative technology to collect surface, air, and wastewater samples and test for the presence of the virus.
The results from this phase will help authorities detect the presence of COVID-19 and monitor any potential spread earlier through its concentration in wastewater.
The results would also help in determining the effectiveness of cleaning protocols to remove viral contamination in different environments.
Environmental testing provides significant support for the epidemiological and contact tracing teams on the ground.
This kind of testing broadens the reach of the contact tracing team from people in contact with positive COVID-19 patients to areas and environments that the affected individuals may have visited and how those may present a risk.
Environmental testing research forms a part of the innovative, evidence-based approach Qatar has adopted as it tackled the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results will inform the response and strategic planning moving forward.
"The immediate need is clearly to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and support Qatar's efforts with additional data to track viral spread. However, on the longer-term setting up such a national environmental screening infrastructure would go a long way toward screening the supply chain into Qatar and supporting screening efforts during the FIFA 2022 World Cup," said Sheikh Dr. Mohamed bin Hamad Al-Thani, Director of the Department of Public Health at the Ministry of Public Health.
Dr. Khaled Machaca, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, Senior Associate Dean for Research, Innovations and Commercialization, Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar commented, "This pilot study highlights the established scientific base with diverse and complementary expertise in Qatar that has been built over the years through the efforts of the Qatari leadership, in particularly Qatar Foundation and Qatar National Research Fund.”
“It further shows an effective collaborative effort in support of national needs and the ability of innovative scientific approach to advance the management of the epidemic in Qatar,” he added.
As COVID-19 restrictions are being eased, MoPH plans to further expand the project to cover educational facilities and local water treatment networks to strengthen surveillance and amplify early detection efforts.
A total of eight organizations including Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar University, Qatar Environmental, and Energy Research Institute, Public Works Authority (ASHGHAL), Qatar Biobank, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, Texas A&M University - Qatar, and Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar are supporting MoPH in this project.
The pilot study has been launched as part of the initiative taken by the Scientific Reference and Research task Force established as part of the response to COVID-19 in Qatar to provide the available scientific evidence to policymakers for their decision making.
MoPH is supported in this project by eight organizations, namely Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar University, Qatar Environmental, and Energy Research Institute, Public Works Authority (ASHGHAL), Qatar Biobank, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, Texas A&M University - Qatar, and Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar.
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