Health officials at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have prepared a wide range of measures to mitigate any potential threats to public health and to ensure the safety of players, officials, fans and the population throughout the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, amid expectations that more than one million fans will visit Qatar to attend the tournament.
These efforts came in the framework of the three-year partnership “Sport for Health” between the MOPH and WHO, pointing out that health security is a key pillar of that partnership along with health promotion, including risk assessment and protocols for mass gatherings inside and outside stadiums; event-based surveillance to protect people from outbreaks of infectious diseases, and risk reporting; because health security plays a key role in ensuring the health and well-being of participants in major sporting events.
MOPH’s Director of the Department of Health Protection and Control of Communicable Diseases, Dr. Hamad Eid Al-Rumaihi, said that huge numbers of fans for major sporting events such as the World Cup may burden the public health services and response resources of the state or the host community, considering that preparedness is crucial for any effective health security plan, noting that the healthcare sector in Qatar has witnessed a remarkable transformation in recent years after the opening of ten new hospitals and 16 new primary health care centers since 2010 in the public sector alone, which contributed to significantly enhancing the absorptive capacity across the health system.
“Another important area of development is the workforce, as it is very important to build a strong and highly skilled team of healthcare professionals in the health system to lead the provision of high-quality healthcare services to the population of Qatar,” Al Rumaihi said.
She emphasised that all football fans visiting Qatar to attend the football World Cup will receive healthcare services from HMC teams according to the highest international standards.
For her part, the WHO representative in Qatar, Dr. Riana Bouhaqa, expressed her admiration for the successful experiences of Qatar, especially the Arab Cup, which was held here.
“The tournament showed us the lessons learned and revealed the possibility of successfully organising mass gatherings if properly managed. “It is possible to reduce the risks arising from gatherings by applying specially designed precautionary measures for each event to the venues, participants, and the context in which the event is held, in a general framework to strengthen the surveillance and public health measures followed in the host country,” she said.
She added that the plans are to build on the best practices and recommendations issued by the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021, strengthen health emergency preparedness, and ensure the maintenance of precautionary measures to contain infectious diseases, including COVID-19, in order to keep people safe and healthy.
Because it has become clear over the years the importance of having properly functioning systems that are ready to respond effectively to health emergencies, the World Health Organization (WHO) supports and encourages the use of simulation exercises as part of emergency preparedness planning.
In recent years, the healthcare workforce in Qatar has participated in large-scale tournaments hosted in Doha, including the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019, the World Athletics Championships Qatar 2019 and the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021.
The unique partnership, “Sport for Health”, aims to create an action program for the protection and promotion of health in future mass gatherings, as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 represents a unique opportunity to develop a new approach to organizing mass sports events, taking into account the lessons learned from the pandemic, and promoting sport and health as a path to recovery.