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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Qatar ‘free of Omicron variant’ as health officials announce new travel guidelines

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While no cases of the new ‘concerning’ variant have been detected in Qatar, health authorities announced new travel guidelines.

No cases of the newly-identified coronavirus variant Omicron have been detected in Qatar as of yet, health officials have confirmed, as concerns over the new mutation continue to increase worldwide.

“In Qatar, we are tracking infected cases but so far no cases of new variant Omicron have been detected in the country,” Dr. Hamad Al Rumaihi, Director of the Department of Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) told Al Rayyan TV on Sunday.

However, preliminary data shows the new variant is “concerning” and could increase the risk of infection among people, the doctor added.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the new variant as a “variant of concern” and Qatar’s MoPH has urged those eligible for a Covid-19 booster shot to book in their appointment as soon as possible to ensure some protection against the virus. 

The latest discovery of the new variant in South Africa has sparked fear across the world with WHO warning of a great number of mutations that pose a risk of reinfection. 

Read also: How worried should we be about the new Omicron Covid-19 variant?

“So far, over 10 countries have confirmed the cases of Omicron variant. It is expected that more cases will be detected in the coming period as the world has become a global village,” said the doctor, referring to the increase in movement worldwide that is expected to contribute to a potential surge in Covid-19 cases. 

“The new COVID-19 variant emerged on November 11 with the scientific name of B.1.1.529 which was later renamed Omicron,” said Dr. Al Rumaihi.

“We have seen several countries around the world reimposing preventive measures due to the increase in positive cases of coronavirus as well as because of the new variant.”

Health experts earlier warned that the Omicron variant could be the strongest Covid-19 strain due to its large numbers of mutations. 

Despite this, the situation in Qatar remains under control due to its high vaccination rate, the doctor said, noting this has greatly helped in containing the virus.

“Qatar is providing safe and effective vaccinations, and the efficiency of vaccination in terms of preventing severe complications and death reaches the highest 95%,” stressed Dr. Al Rumaihi.

So far, no serious side effects or complications have been reported due to the vaccination in Qatar.

New travel guidelines 

On Monday, Qatar’s MoPH issued an update to the country’s ‘Travel and Return Policy’ in line with the latest Covid-19 developments.

As per the new guidelines, the green and red lists have been divided into Group A and B. 

Green and Red list countries

Group A includes all Qatar citizens and residents, who are fully vaccinated, inside or outside Qatar, by a vaccine approved by the Ministry of Public Health, or who have a conditionally approved vaccine, or who have recovered from Covid-19 inside Doha, with at least 14 days passing from the date of recovery.

Travellers from countries listed green or red will be exempted from quarantine upon arrival in Qatar on the condition they abide by the test policy listed on the ministry’s official website. 

As for travellers from green listed countries, who are not vaccinated, ineligible for the vaccine, or who have not completed the necessary vaccination doses, home quarantine is required for seven days upon arrival in the country. 

Read also: Qatar updates travel restrictions as WHO raises concern over Omicron variant

Those coming from red listed countries will be subject to home quarantine for seven days upon arrival.

GCC citizens coming from green listed countries fully vaccinated, inside or outside Qatar, by a vaccine approved by MoPH, or who have a conditionally approved vaccine, or who have recovered from Covid-19 within a GCC country and 14 days have passed from the date of recovery, provided that one dose of an approved vaccine has been given, are exempted from quarantine. 

However, those coming from red listed countries will be subject to hotel quarantine for two days upon arrival in Qatar.

As for GCC travellers who are not fully vaccinated or ineligible for the vaccine or who have not completed the required vaccine doses, they are required to hotel quarantine for seven days upon arrival.

GCC citizens (non-residents) coming to stay with first-degree relatives residing in Qatar are subject to home quarantine for seven days upon arrival provided they present a proof of the relationship and national address data. 

Group B lists quarantine and test policy for visitors to Doha with pre-approved and on-arrival visas.

In this category, travellers from countries under the green list and fully vaccinated by a vaccine approved by MoPH or received one of the conditionally approved vaccines are exempted from quarantining. But for those from the red list countries, hotel quarantine for two days is required upon arrival. 

On the other hand, travellers from both green and red listed countries, who are not fully vaccinated or who have not completed the required vaccine doses will be subject to hotel quarantine for seven days upon arrival in the country regardless of age. 

Those with pre-issued family visas to visit one of their first-degree relatives residing in Qatar will be subject to home quarantine for seven days provided they present a proof of the relationship and national address data. 

All travel guidelines and test policy are available on the MoPH official website. 

Exceptional red list

The number of countries under the Exceptional Red List has now risen to 15, including South Africa, where the new variant was first detected. 

Citizens of Qatar coming from these countries will be subjected to home quarantine for two days if fully vaccinated. If not, they will be required to home quarantine for seven days upon arrival.

As for residents of Qatar and GCC citizens, fully vaccinated travellers will be subject to hotel quarantine for two days upon arrival in the state.

Unvaccinated arrivals will be subject to hotel quarantine for seven days.

On the other hand, fully vaccinated visitors with pre-approved and on-arrival visas will be subject to hotel quarantine for two days upon arrival.

However, unvaccinated visitors are prohibited from entering Qatar.


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