Al Jazeera speaks to chair of the COVID-19 strategic group in Qatar following steep rise in cases and deaths recently.
Doha, Qatar – Qatar’s decision to enforce mandatory quarantine for vaccinated travellers coming from six Asian countries was a result of an “increased number of positive cases” among those arrivals, health authorities have told Al Jazeera.
Starting from August 2, all vaccinated travellers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines are subjected to a two-day hotel quarantine if they received an approved vaccine in Qatar or 10 days if vaccinated elsewhere, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced on July 29.
The announcement, and different requirements based on where the vaccine was received, caused outrage on social media, with people questioning the need to quarantine for additional days despite getting the same vaccine.
*Ministry of Public Health updates on travel and return policies to the State of Qatar *
The Ministry of Public Health has announced the following updates regarding the travel and return policy for COVID-19, effective midday on Monday, August 2, 2021: pic.twitter.com/CfQCKHLie1
— وزارة الصحة العامة (@MOPHQatar) July 30, 2021
Authorities said the enforcement was put in place due to the “risk posed by individual countries” which is “continuously monitored”.
Qatar has reported more than 227,000 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, including 601 deaths. Earlier this month, officials confirmed they had detected the Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country.
It has administered more than 3.9 million doses of COVID vaccines since the start of the campaign this year.
“In response to the latest global data and the number of arrivals at Qatar’s ports of entry, Qatar’s Travel and Return Policy has been updated to ensure the safety of travellers and the safety of the population,” Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19, told Al Jazeera.
“This includes reinstating a short period of quarantine for travellers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka. With large numbers of people returning to Qatar from these countries we are seeing an increased number of positivity among these travellers.”
In July, Qatar announced it would resume issuing family and tourist entry visas for vaccinated and recovered cases.
However, travellers were left questioning the need to quarantine for longer – and end up paying as much as 8,505 Qatari riyals ($2,330) – if they had received the same vaccine from outside Qatar.
I understand these new rules are to safeguard Qatar citizens and residents, please consider to reduce hotel quarentine to 2 days for residents who have taken 2 doses of Coveshield in India.
As we will have 1 negative RTPCR before travel and 1 negative RTPCR on 2 day of quarantine
— Lokesh Reddy (@lokikothur) July 31, 2021
@WHO what is the benefit of vaccine if all the countries are not accept the own vaccine. One vaccine take from Qatar, 2 days quarantine and same vaccine take from Pakistan, 10 days quarantine. What is this behavior.
— Umair_Mehfooz (@Umair_Mehfooz) July 31, 2021
Why discriminate between people who have taken the **same** vaccine but from another country? This rules seem arbitrary and senseless.
— Shyam Aghara (@_shyam98) July 30, 2021
Al-Khal, who is also head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, told Al Jazeera that the decision was taken as authorities were only able to verify vaccinations done in Qatar.
“A record of all citizens and residents vaccinated in Qatar is stored on a national database,” he said. “The Ministry of Public Health cannot yet verify all vaccination certificates from abroad and therefore a different set of measures remain in place.”
Earlier this month, Qatar decided to continue with phase three of its gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions following a rise in reported cases, although minor updates with some relaxation of the rules were announced a few days later.
A statement from the MoPH said it will continue to “monitor key performance indicators to ensure a balance between the continuity of providing protection to the population on the one hand and restoring social and economic life to normal, on the other hand”.
“The slight increase in COVID-19 cases was expected following the Eid holiday and with greater numbers of travellers returning to Qatar,” al-Khal added.
“The decision to continue with phase three of the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has been made as an extra precaution to reduce the spread of the virus.”