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Sunday, August 1, 2021

One year of Covid-19 in Qatar: A timeline

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To mark the first anniversary since Covid-19 struck Qatar, we take a look back on all the events of the past year.

The past year has brought life to a standstill worldwide, and no less so here in Qatar, where health authorities quickly moved to impose a plethora of restrictions to combat the deadly virus.

Now, words like EHTERAZ, lockdown and vaccines are just some of the terms that have become part of everyday life for millions in the country. One year on, we take a look back at all the major events that have shaken our lives, changed our routines, and replaced familiar faces with masks. 

[DN]
February 29, 2020: Qatar’s first ever Covid-19 case was recorded in a 36-year-old Qatari male returning from Iran.

March 8, 2020 – Qatar announced and imposed travel restrictions and temporary bans on several nations, including Lebanon, Iraq, and China – where the virus first appeared. 

March 10, 2020 – Private and public schools, universities, and all modes of public transport were closed.

March 11, 2020 – Covid-19 declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation [WHO].  Spokesperson of the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management Lolwah bint Rashid bin Mohammed Al Khater announced what would be considered the first official lockdown of Qatar.

The restrictions introduced during this time included closing retail shops and bank branches in malls, closing of men and women’s salons and home services, and suspending health club activities in hotels. Grocery stores and pharmacies were the only services exempt from these restrictions. People were encouraged to stay home.

March 13, 2020– Cinemas, theatres, children’s play areas, gyms and wedding venues, including those in hotels, were closed. 

March 18, 2020 – Authorities begin suspension of inbound flights for a two week period and later extend this, except for transit and cargo.

Read also: Vaccines provide 95% protection against new variant strains: health official

Apr 21, 2020 – Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced its decision to stop restaurants and cafes from allowing customers inside and outside the store. Only home delivery was available. By then, the only services available were  grocery stores, medical services, and other essential services.

May 22, 2020 – The track and tracing app EHTERAZ is introduced as a mandatory measure. No more than two people are allowed in the same vehicle, with the exception for three people in private vehicles driven by a family driver, or transportation in taxis. Buses were only allowed to operate at half capacity. Group sports activities banned. 

Jun 8, 2020Qatar announces its four phase plan to slowly lift all restrictions starting June 15. The second phase started on July 1, the third on August 1, and the fourth on September 1.

Jun 15, 2020 The first stage of the four-phase plan begins. Some mosques are permitted to reopen, except for Friday prayer. Flights are allowed to depart from Hamad International Airport, although arrivals remain suspended.

Jul 1, 2020 – Second stage of the gradual lifting begins. Restaurants, mosques, beaches and parks are partially reopened. Museums and libraries are permitted to operate with a limited capacity and under limited working hours. 50 percent of public and private sector employees are allowed back in the workplace as needed and under strict safety conditions. Gatherings are limited to five people – reduced from the previous 10.

Read also: Eligibility age drops as Qatar receives more Covid-19 vaccines    

Jun 8, 2020Qatar announces its four phase plan to slowly lift all restrictions starting June 15. The second phase started on July 1, the third on August 1, and the fourth on September 1.

Jun 15, 2020 The first stage of the four-phase plan begins. Some mosques are permitted to reopen, except for Friday prayer. Flights are allowed to depart from Hamad International Airport, although arrivals remain suspended.

Aug 1, 2020, –  New Exceptional Entry Permit goes live on Qatar Portal Website. Residents outside of Qatar at the time are required to apply for an EEP to allow authorities to manage the re-entry of people into the country. This later causes major issues for residents that are left stranded abroad while awaiting their approved EEPs.  

Low risk inbound flights for priority passengers, such as returning residents, resume. Shopping centres open at full capacity. 

Restaurants open with limited capacity, driving schools are reopened, 80% of employees return to the workplace. All mosques in the country are allowed to perform daily and Friday prayers, however toilets and ablution facilities remain closed.  

Health clubs, fitness halls, beauty salons, hairdressers, massage centres and swimming pools are allowed to open at 50% capacity.

September 15, 2020 –  100% of employees return to the workplace and cinemas increase capacity to 30%. Hospitality and cleaning services are permitted to restart.

October 13, 2020 – Qatar extends quarantine rules, requiring travellers to isolate for up to 14 days upon their arrival in the country. Arrivals to Qatar from “low-risk countries” required to take a coronavirus test at the airport and sign an official pledge to adhere to quarantine at home for a week.

October 25- Qatar signs an agreement with Moderna to purchase its potential Covid-19 vaccine once it is available, which Doha says will be provided for free to all citizens.

November 29, 2020 – Travel rules change for residents in Qatar wishing to travel. Exceptional Entry Permit is now automatically received before departure from the country.

December 21, 2020 – Qatar finally receives the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines after countries around the world authorised its usage for emergencies. Seniors above 70 years of age, people with chronic illnesses who are 16 years old or above, and frontline workers in the health sector are prioritised to receive the shot.

[DN]
December 23, 2020 – The first vaccine is administered to 79-year-old Abdullah Al Kubaisi, former Qatar University president.

Dec 31: Thousands of people have been left in panic after recent reports suggested possible side effects from the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in people with cosmetic face fillers.

The newly-developed and Food and Drug Administration [FDA]-approved coronavirus vaccine was tested on 30,000 volunteers in its final trial. Of those, three people had minor allergic reactions, according to a report released by FDA, which confirmed the volunteers all had cosmetic fillers, albeit at different times.

Jan 3 (2021): Shortly after the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign kicked off in Qatar, the health ministry announced that it is working with pharmaceutical companies to receive the second shipment “as early as possible.” 

Jan 4: Citizens and residents who are 65 and above can now get themselves registered to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have not already been contacted by the Ministry of Public Health. Authorities say eligibility criteria will be updated every two weeks.

Read also: Myths vs facts: Your biggest vaccine worries extinguished

Jan 14: Recipients of the Covid-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Qatar start receiving the second dose of the shot, Qatar’s ministry of health said. Dr. Abdullah Al Kubaisi, the former president of Qatar University, who was the first citizen to receive the first dose in December, receives his second shot.

Jan 17: As a part of the national Covid-19 vaccine campaigns, the Ministry of Public Health has announced the launch of a new website vaccination registration process for residents and citizens of Qatar. HMC resumes face to face appointments.

Jan 21: More than 17,000 Covid-19 vaccinations have been given to residents and citizens of Qatar since the inoculation programme was rolled out, according to official figures.

Feb 3: Qatar announces the reimposition of restrictions in a four level plan to curb a potential second wave. The levels are to be reviewed every 3 weeks. Increased police patrol to catch violators, number of employees in workplaces is restricted, children’s playgrounds and indoor amusement parks are closed, capacity of indoor sports and fitness areas such as gyms are limited, and indoor weddings (unless held at home) are banned.

February 9 – HMC halts in person appointments, consultations were held virtually via phone. 

Feb 10: Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health [MoPH] officially authorised Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, as cases continue to rise in the country. 4 HMC facilities close for in-person visitors.

Feb 15, 2021: MoPH advises people above the age of 60 to get vaccinated after a recent increase in Covid-19 infections in Qatar leaves four elderly people dead.

Feb 18: More than 100,000 vaccinations have been administered to people in Qatar, the Head of Vaccination at Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) Dr Soha Al Bayat said.

The new Covid-19 vaccination centre opens up at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), to focus efforts on vaccinating teachers and school administrative staff during its initial stages.

Feb 25: Hamad’s Home Healthcare Service (HHS) starts administering Covid-19 vaccines for housebound patients, along with adults living in the same homes, to protect them against the virus. 

Feb 28: A new Covid-19 drive-through vaccination centre opens up in Lusail for patients needing the second dose of the vaccine.

Read also: Vaccine Hesitancy: Why ‘anti-vaxxers’ refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19

March 3: Figures show more than 60% of those aged 70 or over received at least the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination as authorities ramp up campaigns to encourage the elderly to inoculate. 

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education announce stricter measures, effective March 21, for school staff who will not be allowed to enter school premises without showing the golden vaccination stamp on EHTERAZ or providing a weekly negative Covid-19 test.

March 4: Eligibility threshold lowered to 50 as the country receives more of the Moderna and Pfzier-BioNTech vaccines.

March 7: Travel guidelines updated for vaccinated arrivals from red zone countries and their children who are now exempt from mandatory hotel quarantine.

March 8: More than 327,582 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the start of the vaccination programme.over half of the people aged 60 and above have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. 61 percent of those who are above 80 years of age, 61 percent of those above 70 years of age, in addition to 55 percent of those above 60 years of age, have successfully received the vaccine.

March 10: The vaccination drive is set to expand in Qatar as more shots arrive in the country. Nearly half of teaching staff in public and private schools have been inoculated against Covid-19.

Approximately 12% of the population in Qatar having received at least the first dose of the vaccine, a senior official confirmed.

March 11: Qatar Airways set to become the first airline in the Middle East to launch the new health passport.

March 16: Health officials confirm vaccines provide 95% protection against the new mutated strains of the novel coronavirus after the UK variant is confirmed in the country.

March 17: Health ministry says 510,000 Covid-19 vaccine shots have been administered since the start of the inoculation drive. The weekly rate has been increased by 270%, with more than 100,000 doses given every week.

As of March 17, the total number of infections is 171,212 while 158,853 have recovered from the virus. Authorities have recored 12,091 current active cases and 268 deaths.

Qatar currently boasts one of the lowest mortality rates in the world.


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