Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has announced plans to introduce saliva-based COVID-19 tests for children from Sunday 20 September as part of a national testing program to gain a better understanding of infection rates.
MOPH will work in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation and Primary Health Care Corporation to carry out tests for all students in both government and private schools in Qatar and parental consent will be sought prior to any child being tested.
“We are pleased to be utilizing the saliva-based COVID-19 test for children alongside our key partners and we will be using this method throughout our four to six-week testing program. The standard test used to date in Qatar has been the swab test, which requires a swab to be inserted up the individual’s nose and to the back of their throat. This is very effective but some people, especially children, can find the process uncomfortable. Studies around the world have been looking at the use of saliva only swabs and the results have confirmed their effectiveness,” said Dr. Mariam Abdul Malik, Managing Director of PHCC.
“Since students returned to classrooms on 1 September, we have identified a small number of positive cases among children and teachers. While any new case among children is of concern, it is important that we put this into context. Out of more than 350,000 students and over 35,000 teachers in Qatar less than 0.2 percent have tested positive since schools reopened. This is a very low rate of infection among this population group,” said Dr. Hamad Al Romaihi, Manager of Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control at MOPH.
“As with all positive cases in Qatar, our track and trace teams have worked hard to identify where these positive cases among children and teachers were transmitted and it is clear that they did not catch the virus in schools. Our surveillance shows they caught the virus outside of school settings, mainly at home during social gatherings,” added Dr. Al Romaihi.