Doha, 27 May, QNA: Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) announced a new protocol for the handling of COVID-19 patients. According to the new protocol, the majority of patients with COVID-19 in Qatar will be discharged from healthcare facilities fourteen days after their first positive swab. Upon discharge from a hospital or isolation facility, patients should follow the instructions provided by medical professionals, including downloading and activating the Ehteraz mobile application. They should also remain in home quarantine – not leaving home for any reason – for an additional week and those who violate these conditions will be subject to penalties according to the penal code laws on the prevention of infectious diseases and the protection of the community.
To date, many patients have remained in hospital or isolation facilities for longer than fourteen days as their discharge required them to have two negative PCR test results before leaving the facility. The new protocol will benefit patients by enabling them to return home and back to normal life as quickly as possible.
“The new protocol for discharging patients with COVID-19 is an encouraging step forward and brings Qatar in line with the World Health Orgganization (WHO) recommendations and the most recent scientific evidence showing that after ten days from the first positive swab, the majority of patients are no longer contagious with COVID-19,” said Dr. Naema Al Molawi, Virologist at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
“Our process for discharge so far has required patients to wait for two negative swabs before being able to return home. However, a negative test result can take a number of weeks to come through because for some people the body still contains traces of the virus. However, guidance from WHO and from around the world, including the United Kingdom, United States, and Germany shows that patients are no longer contagious after ten days. In Qatar, we will go a step further with a fourteen-day period between the first positive swab and discharge,” added Dr. Al Molawi.
The new discharge policy applies only to those patients who do not require medical support. Any patient with moderate to severe symptoms that require ongoing medical treatment will continue to be cared for in a medical facility until their symptoms subside.
“Under the new policy asymptomatic patients – those who display no symptoms – will be discharged fourteen days from initial diagnosis. For mildly symptomatic patients, isolation can be discontinued fourteen days from diagnosis and a minimum of five days from resolution of symptoms, whichever is longer,” explained Dr. Nasser Al Ansari, Head of Infection Control at Hazm Mebaireek General Hospital.
“Over the past few weeks we have been seeing an increase in the number of patients making a full recovery from COVID-19. This is very encouraging, and we expect the number to continue to increase in the near future. While some people can become seriously ill as a result of the virus, the vast majority of patients make a full recovery and experience only mild symptoms. There is clear evidence from around the world that after ten days of testing positive for the virus people are no longer contagious. This means they cannot pass the virus on to other people and can therefore return home and start to get back to their normal lives,” said Dr. Al Ansari.
Upon discharge from a hospital or isolation facility, patients should follow the instructions provided by medical professionals, including downloading and activating the Ehteraz mobile application. They should also remain in home quarantine – not leaving home for any reason – for an additional week and their Ehteraz status will remain yellow for this period of time.
“The revised policy, which was approved by the Ministry of Public Health, is based on the latest scientific knowledge about the dynamics of the virus and the recent changes in US and European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as well as World Health Organization guidelines,” explained Dr. Muna Al Maslamani, Medical Director, Communicable Disease Center and the Medical Director for COVID-19.
“The policy will apply to the vast majority of COVID-19 patients; however, there are some exceptions. If the patient is returning to a household which includes one or more people over 60 years of age, and it is judged appropriate, an additional COVID-19 test will be done prior to discharge. If the test is positive the patient will remain in a hospital or isolation facility for further seven days and will then be discharged without a repeat test. Additionally, hospitalized patients, especially older patients and those with chronic conditions, who had required acute care because of severe COVID-19 symptoms, will be judged on a case-by-case basis by the treating physician before discontinuing isolation,” added Dr. Al Maslamani.