Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The coronavirus pandemic has swept the world and left many anxious and searching for answers. There is still a lot that scientists are working to discover, but here we answer some of the most common questions about the virus and how it affects you, your family, and life in Qatar.

What is a coronavirus? What is the 2019 novel coronavirus? How is it different from other coronaviruses?

Four types of human coronaviruses cause the common cold in humans. However, there are other coronaviruses that infect other animal species. Sometimes these animal coronaviruses evolve and enter the human population. When these are identified for the first time in humans, they are called a new, or novel, coronavirus. In December 2019, a novel coronavirus was identified as a cause of respiratory infection in people in Wuhan, China, and it is now known as 2019 novel coronavirus or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Other examples of novel coronaviruses have included MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus) and SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus). 

What is SARS-CoV-2?

SARS-CoV-2 is the new name of the virus responsible for the ongoing outbreak of respiratory disease. On February 11, 2020, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, charged with naming new viruses, named the novel coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, shortened to SARS-CoV-2. 

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the name for the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2.

How does COVID-19 spread? 

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

There’s a lot of information online. What should I do? 

There are a lot of myths and misinformation about coronavirus being shared online – including on how COVID-19 spreads, how to stay safe, and what to do if you’re worried about having contracted the virus. 

So, it’s important to be careful where you look for information and advice. 

  • UNICEF and CDC have launched portals where you can find more information and guidance about COVID-19. 
  • WHO has a useful section addressing some of the most frequently asked questions. 
  • It’s also advisable to keep up to date on the guidance provided by the Ministry of Public Health and the Government Communications Office for the latest recommendations and news in the State of Qatar.

Test how much you know about the virus and help UNICEF tackle misinformation by taking this quiz and sharing it with your family, friends and colleagues.

Is there a vaccine?

Several vaccines have been developed to protect against COVID-19 and are in the process of being delivered to people around the world. 

The MOPH has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use and plans to provide the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge to all Qatar citizens and residents. Certain population groups will receive the vaccine first because they are at higher risk. The three priority population groups are: older people, people with certain chronic conditions and key healthcare workers. For full details about the COVID-19 vaccination program in Qatar, click here.

Citizens and residents of Qatar can register for the COVID-19 vaccination here.

Even with the benefit of effective vaccines, it remains important to limit the spread of the virus as much as possile by following everyday preventive actions, like avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often.

Is there a treatment? 

There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms.

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath.

How can I help protect myself? 

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

To help curtail the spread of the coronavirus, public health officials recommend good personal hygiene practices, social distancing (minimize the number of interactions that provide the opportunity for the disease to spread), minimizing close contact among groups of people and avoiding contact with others if you feel ill.

Please follow these simple steps to protect yourself and others:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Put distance between yourself adn other people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the COVID-19? 

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.

What are the guidelines for self-isolation? 

Please click here for CDC guidelines on self isolation.

What are the guidelines for living alongside someone who is self-isolating? Please click here for CDC guidelines on living along someone who is self-isolating.

What should you do if you have symptoms suggestive of COVID, or have a history of recent travel/or exposure to someone with COVID or suspected COVID? 
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, such as fever, coughing or shortness of breath, please call Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) Coronavirus Hotline on 16000.
  • If instructed to do so, please go directly to Hamad Medical Center (HMC) Emergency Room for testing, click here for location.
  • Avoid public transportation, including taxis. Please call 999 for an ambulance if required.
  • Testing for COVID-19 is available at HMC and at a number of approved private hospitals and clinics. 
  • All costs related to COVID-19 testing and any related treatment at HMC will be fully covered, with zero cost to the patient.
  • For those with a positive result, MoPH will conduct contact tracing.
  • If instructed to quarantine at home, it is extremely important that you fully comply with the MoPH rules of home-quarantine, which can be found here.
  • For more information, please call MoPH Hotline on 16000 or visit www.moph.gov.qa
If you have mild cold symptoms: 
  • Individuals with mild cold symptoms do not need to go to HMC ER and can stay at home until mild symptoms get better. This can be managed by your own physician.
  • Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. 
  • Avoid public transportation, including taxis.
  • Stay in touch with your physician and be sure to get care if you feel worse or you think it is an emergency.
  • During this time, it is extremely important that you fully comply with the MoPH rules of home-quarantine, which can be found here.
  • For more information, please call Ministry of Public Health Coronavirus Hotline on 16000 or visit www.moph.gov.qa
I am currently outside Qatar, can I travel back to Qatar?

Under the instructions of the Qatar Government, certain restrictions and conditions apply for travel to Qatar from abroad. The Qatar Travel and Return Policy of the Ministry of Public Health explains the policy in full and can be accessed here.

COVID-19 & Children

As public conversations around coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) increase, children may worry about themselves, their family, and friends getting ill with COVID-19. Parents, family members, school staff, and other trusted adults can play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate, and minimizes anxiety or fear.