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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Qatar updates travel restrictions as WHO raises concern over Omicron variant

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The new Covid-19 variant has sparked travel bans across the world as health experts warn of increased risk of reinfection. 

Qatar’s health authorities updated the country’s “Exceptional Red List Countries” as per the travel and return policy amid increasing concern over a new Covid-19 variant.

The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced in a tweet on Friday that the updates will “come into immediate effect” and comes as a response to the recent discovery of a worrying Covid-19 variant known as ‘Omicron’. 

 

This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported on Friday. 

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

Read also: Can you “mix-and-match” COVID vaccines?

Unvaccinated visitors coming from the following countries are prohibited to enter the Gulf state: Bangladesh, Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, India, Lesotho, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.

Unvaccinated Qatari citizens, residents and GCC citizens coming from countries under the ‘Exceptional Red List’ will be required to quarantine for seven days in one of the designated hotels in Qatar.

In the wake of concerns over the spread of Omicron, Qatar Airways announced that “passengers will no longer be accepted for travel from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique” on its flights. 

The airline stated that this decision will be effective immediately and the situation will be reviewed on a daily basis in accordance with updates from WHO.

In a tweet on Saturday, QA said the ban has been expanded to include passengers from Angola and Zambia. 

However, passengers travelling to these countries will continue to be accepted on QA flights, the carrier noted. 

“Passengers affected by these changes should call Qatar Airways or speak with their travel agent for further assistance,” it added.

Meanwhile, health officials in Australia found Omicron positive cases in two passengers who arrived in the country from southern Africa onboard on a Qatar Airways flight via Doha. 

New South Wales’ health authority confirmed on Sunday that the two cases were detected shortly after arriving from the Qatari capital. 

Qatari authorities have been encouraging citizens and residents to administer the Covid-19 booster shot, though it remains unclear if this provides adequate protection against the new mutations.

However, major pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech have promised to create a new vaccine to battle the Omicron variant within 100 days, Sputnik reported.


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