The Qatari government announced on Wednesday, March 11, a sudden spike in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, with a total of 262. Some 238 new cases were confirmed in a 24-hour span, though authorities clarified that the new cases had initial contact with the first three confirmed cases and were in isolation when the diagnoses were confirmed.
On Monday, March 9, Qatari officials announced the closure of schools, nurseries, and universities, both public and private, in efforts to control the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The closure will begin on Tuesday, March 10, and will remain in effect until further notice.
The Qatari Government Communications Office (GCO) announced on Sunday, March 8, that it will expand a temporary entry ban to include individuals traveling from 14 countries effective March 9, to limit the spread of COVID-19. GCO representatives said that all individuals traveling from Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Thailand, will be denied entry to Qatar - including those with a residence or work permit, and temporary visitors. Representatives of Qatar Airways confirmed on Monday that individuals traveling from China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy will be denied entry to Qatar unless they are transiting through Hamad International Airport or unless they are a Qatari national or hold a residency permit. However, returning Qatari nationals and residents will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at a designated facility.
Travelers from Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore arriving in Qatar will be screened; those that display symptoms will be held for further testing. Upon testing positive for COVID-19, the individual will be admitted to a designated facility.
As of March 9, Qatar has reported 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Further international spread of COVID-19 is to be expected over the near term. The GCO reiterated the government's travel advice warning against all but essential travel at this time.
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 numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled the outbreak as pandemic.
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.
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.