The National Survey to detect asymptomatic individuals

The National COVID-19 Survey will bring an understanding of the members of the population who could have been asymptomatic but gone unrecorded so far.

The ministry has randomly chosen the participants and each individual is briefed about the blood investigation that will give an insight on individuals who have developed antibodies for COVID-19, which would indicate that they had been exposed to the virus but developed immunity.

With the increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Sultanate, the main aim of the national survey is to determine the extent of the spread of the virus to control the disease.

Explaining about the survey, Dr Fatma al Yaqoubi, Head of TB and Acute Respiratory Infection Section at the Department of Communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Health said, “We all know there are cases that are infected and confirmed by the lab. We also know some people are infected but show no symptoms.  So this was the plan to understand the extent of the spread of the disease, it gives us an idea of the community spread and has an estimation of the level of spread in different governorates as well as different age groups.”

The survey can also give a clue about the percentage of asymptomatic people.

The survey will be conducted in ten weeks, which will have four cycles.

“Each cycle will take around five to seven days and then halt for about two weeks and then continue with the cycles.  The total number of participants, chosen randomly representing both citizens and expatriates, will be 20,000 and each cycle will have 5,000 participants and they are distributed in different governorates,” Dr Fatma said.

The survey will have a representation of demographics, as children as young as five years old are also participating.

“Children are included to give us a clear picture of the disease spread in the community as well as the age groups in wilayats of the governorates.  The Ministry of Health representatives have been calling each participant to take verbal acceptance.  It is up to the participant but I urge everyone to join the survey.

Subsequently, the participants are guided to the nearest health centres where he/she will be registered and a questionnaire will be filled with the assistance of the doctor at the health centre and the participant will be directed for the blood collection.  The results will be sent to the participants,” she explained.

The blood test will indicate the body’s antibody response to COVID-19.  “The concern is not the current infection.  We need to find out if the person concerned had been exposed and had been infected with the virus at any particular time,” she noted.

The results will be useful at two levels – as an individual the participant will know if they had been infected or not as per their report.  At the country level, the survey will give a better perspective to understand the rate of infection in the community.

“Currently we only know about the cases with the symptoms now we will know the prevalence of the disease in each governorate and with the age group.  This will give us an insight for the nest strategic planning – should we continue with the same efforts, the current restrictions, or look for some other strategies.  The airports are closed, the internal and external tourism has been affected, mosques and schools have been closed.  The results of the survey will give us an indication of whether we should lift these restrictions,” concluded Dr Fatma al Yaqoubi.