The Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar has ordered the evacuation of all Qatar and Kuwait nationals in Iran as of Wednesday, February 26, due to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). This follows the announcement by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that the government of Iran had no plans to quarantine any cities or districts to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Qatari state news agency did not immediately announce further details.
Representatives of Qatar Airways announced on Wednesday that the airline will reduce flights to and from Iran from February 26, through Saturday, March 14. The airline will also operate flights to and from South Korea during the same time period with a smaller aircraft due to reduced demand. Qatar Airways officials also said that all passengers from Iran and South Korea arriving in Qatar will be subject to either a 14-day home isolation or quarantine at a designated facility even if they are not showing symptoms of COVID-19. Those showing symptoms will be transferred to the designated facility. Flights to and from mainland China remain suspended since Monday, February 3.
Officials have not confirmed any cases of COVID-19 in Qatar as of February 26. However, further international spread of the virus is expected in the coming days and weeks.
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). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in more than 30 countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Individuals in Qatar, as well as Kuwaitis and Qataris in Iran, are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home government.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.