Rapid Antigen Tests and PCR Tests in Qatar
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced a set of updates to its COVID-19 testing protocol to enhance access to COVID-19 tests and ensure tests are processed in the most efficient and effective manner.
The updates come following a significant increase in demand for COVID-19 tests due to the third wave of the pandemic, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant and the large number of travelers returning to Qatar in the past ten days seeking post-travel tests.
The Ministry indicated that the updates also include, in addition to the opening of a drive-through testing center in Lusail, approval of the wide use of the rapid antigen test (RAT) to obtain quick results.
· A test that is intended to provide fast and reasonably accurate screening for Covid-19 on respiratory specimens at the point
· It can be used in clinical and non-clinical settings
· It can detect COVID-19 virus antigen in the first week of infection when most infectious.
· Any positive antigen tests will need to be confirmed by PCR testing.
Uses of the Rapid Antigen Test at the Private Healthcare Sector
1. Triage patients with respiratory symptoms presenting to clinics.
2. Pre-minor elective procedures without intubation needed or risk of aerosol spread in situations like dental, cosmetic, minor
3. Pre-admission for minor procedures.
4. Routine screening of persons who are not vaccinated as may be required in non-healthcare settings like workplace,
businesses, or schools, particularly employees with direct customer exposure such as gyms, cashiers and restaurant workers.
Private Medical Facilities
Rapid antigen tests are available at more than 100 private hospitals and clinics in Qatar at a cost of QR50 per test. Test results at private centers are usually delivered within 15 minutes.
Primary Health Care Corporation
Rapid antigent tests are available at all 28 PHCC health centers.
The result will be sent to individuals via SMS within two (2) hours of the test and the results reflected in Ehteraz no earlier than 4 hours after the test.
Rapid antigent tests at PHCC health centers are charged at the following rates:
• QR50 for unvaccinated individual for work or school purposes
• QR50 for post-travel tests
• Free for eligible people with signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or close contacts of infected cases.
MOPH Health has approved the use of COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) at authorized public and private centers for the following groups:
• For people under 50 years of age who display COVID-19 symptoms.
• For people under 50 years of age who are close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
• For travelers returning to Qatar who require post-travel COVID-19 tests
• Rapid antigen tests offer a fast and accurate screening test to detect COVID-19 virus antigens in the individual. The tests require a nasal swab to be taken from the individual, and the results are available within a short time. Those who test positive on a Rapid Antigen Test DO NOT need to confirm it with a PCR test. People above 50 years of age who display symptoms or are close contacts will be tested using PCR.
• The change in policy to rapid antigen testing comes into effect on 5 January and will enable people who are eligible to have their positive or negative status confirmed more rapidly.
• From 5 January, rapid antigen tests undertaken at Primary Health Care Corporation health centers will have their results sent to them via SMS within two hours of the test. The results are reflected in Ehteraz no earlier than 4 hours after the test. Rapid antigen tests undertaken in private facilities will be reflected in Ehteraz starting Monday, 10 January.
MOPH Announces Updates to COVID-19 Testing Protocol. pic.twitter.com/zOOf6DLfxC— ????? ????? ?????? (@MOPHQatar) January 5, 2022
POLYMERASE CHAIN REACTION (PCR) TESTS
· For screening of asymptomatic patients or patients presenting with COVID-19 like symptoms or other respiratory symptoms.
· It can detect COVID-19 virus in the early acute infectious stage of the infection and during the prolonged shedding stage that is often found in recovering patients.
Uses of PCR at Private Healthcare Facilities
1. For screening of patients presenting with COVID-19 like symptoms or other respiratory symptoms.
2. For travellers who need to do a pre-travel PCR screening test which should be done within 48 – 72 hours pre travel.
3. Prior to major procedures for patients where screening is done 24 – 48 hours before the procedure.
4. Prior to admission to hospital 24 – 48 hours before the admission.
5. For confirmation of infection following a positive rapid antigen test and/or positive rapid IgG and IgM bands Antibodies.
* swabbing of close contacts for contact tracing is not allowed to be done at private healthcare facilities. This is the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Public Health.
Private Medical Facilities
PCR tests for people with symptoms as well as travel purposes are provided by more than 100 private hospitals and clinics in Qatar at a cost of QR160 per test.
Primary Health Care Corporation
PCR tests for non-travel purposes are available at all 28 PHCC health centers for free for eligible population groups including people 50 years and above with signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or who are close contacts with confirmed case.
Pre-travel PCR tests are offered by PHCC only at the new Drive-Through Testing Center in Lusail, charged at QR160 per test.
From January 7, PHCC will only provide PCR tests at the new Lusail COVID-19 Drive-Throuogh PCR Test Center - health centers will cease providing PCR tests.
Asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) close contacts of an infected case who have received the COVID-19 booster dose or second dose of the vaccine within the last 4 months, are under 50 years of age, and have no chronic conditions have the option to take an antigen test if the individual requests. The Ministry of Public Health does not require them to be tested because they have a high level of immunity against the virus. However, they must continue to follow the precautionary measures and wear a face mask, as per MOPH policy.
Close contacts who are unvaccinated, have not had the booster dose, or had their second dose more than 4 months ago, in addition to people aged 50 years or above and people with chronic conditions, will be tested. A rapid antigen test for those under 50 years of age and a PCR test for those aged 50 years and above.