Restrictions include banning all dine-in options at restaurants and cafes, as well as limitations on social gathering.
The new decisions, set to go into effect on Friday, include closing indoor and outdoor dine-in options at all food and coffee shops, decreasing the number of staff at offices to 50% capacity across private and public sectors, and closing barbers and beauty salons until further notice.
Social gatherings are also banned unless held outdoors with a maximum of five vaccinated people.
Earlier restrictions included banning all indoor and outdoor weddings and mandatory quarantine exemptions for those that have been vaccinated in Qatar.
As expected, the restrictions attracted various reactions online, from major concerns over the cause of an extreme surge in Covid-19 numbers, to praise for the ministry’s efforts to clamp down on the rising cases.
Responding to the press conference, one Twitter user said: “airports are still open. The virus has spread drastically in schools and preventative steps were taken too late. And what about exams? And no mention of vaccinated people! And the ban of Taraweeh prayer?! These are all frustrating for the community.”
With children under 16 years old banned from entering shopping malls and with the closing of entertainment facilities, cinemas and schools, some have raised concerns over mental health for children.
“What are children under 16 supposed to do. It is insane to just lock them up inside their homes. Over 80% of families in Qatar are expats who don’t have huge villas where kids can cycle or play remaining indoors. Children supervised by adults should be allowed outdoors,” a Twitter user said.
However, despite the strict measures, many praised the ministry’s relentless work and efforts to protect the community. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, authorities have been quick in their response to halt the spread of the deadly virus, allowing Qatar to boast the lowest mortality rate in the world.
In December, Qatar launched a vaccination drive providing safe and authorised Covid-19 vaccines free of charge for all of its residents. To date, more than one million doses have been administered.
“I have so much appreciation and respect for their [ministry’s] efforts since the beginning of the pandemic and for their efforts today to control this dangerous wave of #COVID19. God willing, we will help them and support them praying, getting vaccinated and adhering to the precautionary measures,” another Twitter user said.
Others rushed to praise Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, the Head of Infectious Diseases Division, for his efforts in effectively battling the health crisis over the past year.
“This man has endured so much, has been exhausted day and night since the beginning of the pandemic and showed no shortcomings. Despite this, Dr. Abdulllatif Al-Khal is rarely thanked for his efforts, which he deserves, and is often criticised for what is out of his hands. Perhaps this is maybe because he is always at the forefront. I have a lot of respect and appreciation for him,” another Twitter user wrote, in praise of Qatar’s foremost Covid-19 official.
Another user took a more balanced approach.
“I know the idea of a second “lockdown” is hard, it really is. But I will never understand people who complain about every rule/regulation the government imposes. We are living through a GLOBAL PANDEMIC fyi, and they’re really doing their best to control the chaos that’s happening,” she said.
“This is not the government just deciding to shut things down because they feel like it. We are all in this struggle together, and you know what? Sometimes in life, you just have to ride the wave and accept that it is what it is,” she added.
Qatar is currently grappling with a more severe Covid-19 wave than that witnessed in 2020, with over 400 cases currently being tended to by doctors in the Intensive Care Unit as well as 900+ daily reported cases.
In December, eight people died from the novel coronavirus. The number decreased to three in January before shooting up to 10 in February, including an 11-year-old child. However, since March, over 50 people have succumbed to the virus.
Health officials say the newly-found UK strain and the South African strain are the cause for the increasing number of cases and ICU admissions.
The UK variant, a more deadly strain, has 23 mutations and spreads up to 70% more easily, experts say. This has resulted in a sharp increase in Covid-19 positive cases in Qatar, going from 300-400 daily reported cases in February to over 900 in April so far.
However, as concerns continue to rise, health authorities have continued to speed up and expand a nationwide vaccination campaign with aim to inoculate 90% of the population by the end of this year.