Qatar will begin reopening its borders to foreign travellers and allow citizens and permanent residents to travel in and out of the country from August 1, according to a government statement, as the Gulf state moves to gradually lift restrictions imposed to control its coronavirus outbreak.
The Government Communications Office (GCO) said on Wednesday that arrivals to Qatar from “low-risk countries” will be required to take a coronavirus test at the airport and sign a formal pledge to adhere to quarantine at home for a week.
After seven days, the travellers will be required to undergo a second test and their quarantine period will end if results come back negative. However, if the traveller tests positive, he or she will be transferred to a government facility for isolation.
The GCO said the list of low-risk countries will be published on the Ministry of Public Health’s website and will be reviewed every two weeks. The current list has 40 countries and includes China, Thailand and Malaysia in the Asia Pacific, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Greece in Europe, and Algeria and Turkey in the Middle East.
People arriving from countries that are not on the safe list will have to obtain a “virus-free certificate” from an accredited COVID-19 testing facility no more than 48 hours before travelling and adhere to the home quarantine policy when they get to Qatar.
If travellers are not able to obtain a test from an accredited facility in their country of departure, they will be required to quarantine at a hotel at their own expense for a week and undergo a COVID-19 test at the end of the seven days.
If the results come back positive, the traveller will be moved to an isolation facility. If the results are negative, the person will still have to undergo another week of quarantine at home.
Meanwhile, Qatari citizens, their spouses and children, and those with permanent residency “can travel outside the country and return at any time”, the GCO said. They will be subject to coronavirus tests or quarantine upon their return depending on whether the country of departure is deemed low risk or not.
Residents outside the country will also be allowed to return to Qatar starting on August 1, “based on a series of priorities, including public health indicators, the nature of the needs of the various government and semi-government sectors and humanitarian cases”, the GCO said.
Qatar is the worst-hit country in the Middle East after Iran, reporting 107,430 confirmed coronavirus cases and 160 deaths.
The lifting of the travel restrictions on August 1 is the third phase in a four-phase reopening plan.
Under the first phase, which began on June 15, mosques, parks and shops were allowed to reopen with restrictions.
In the second phase, malls and markets reopened and training for professional sports resumed provided it is done in small groups and in large open spaces. Restaurants, museums and libraries also reopened.
Under phase four, which is set for September 1, large gatherings including wedding parties will be permitted, and theatres and cinemas will reopen. Gyms and salons can resume business and all employees may return to their workplaces under strict health precautions.