The Qatari government has announced that the country's international travel restrictions will be eased from Saturday, August 1, as the country enters the third phase of its coronavirus disease (COVID-19) recovery plan. Foreign travelers from forty government-designated 'low-risk' countries, including China, Thailand, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Greece, Algeria, and Turkey, will be required to take a COVID-19 test on arrival in the country and self-quarantine for one week. A second test will be required at the end of the self-quarantine period, with any travelers testing positive for the disease being transferred to a government-run isolation facility. The list of low-risk countries is published on the Ministry of Public Health website and will be reviewed every two weeks.
Those arriving from countries not included on the low-risk list will be required to provide certification of a negative COVID-19 test result from an accredited testing facility within the previous 48 hours. The travelers will then be required to undertake a one-week self-quarantine period under the same conditions as those from low-risk countries. If unable to provide a certified test result, travelers will be tested on arrival and required to quarantine at a government-approved hotel at their own expense for one week.
Qatari citizens, as well as their spouses and immediate family, will be subject to the same regulations but will be free to leave and return to the country at any time. Foreign residents in Qatar will also be able to return to the country from August 1, with those returning being prioritized based on the public sector requirements.
The easing of travel restrictions comes as Qatar enters the third stage of its four-phase COVID-19 reopening plan. The second phase, which began on July 1, saw the reopening of restaurants, outdoor sports facilities, markets, and non-essential shops. Phase four, which is currently scheduled to begin from September 1, will see large gatherings permitted, gyms and salons reopened, and workers return to offices with hygiene and social distancing measures in place. However, some COVID-19 measures, including the mandatory use of face masks and the government's contact-tracing app Ehteraz, remain in place.
As of Wednesday, July 22, there have been 107,430 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, with 160 associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
The measures adopted by local authorities are evolving fluidly, and are usually effective immediately. Authorities are likely to modify - at very short notice - the list of countries subject to border control measures on arrival to the territory. Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.