Qatar drops COVID testing for incoming travelers ahead of World Cup

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TEHRAN – Qatar has rescinded a requirement that people arriving in the country by air test negative for COVID-19, a move in favor of football fans ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Travelers no longer have to present COVID tests and pre-register on a government app to enter the country, Aljazeera reported on Tuesday.

The latest relaxation of COVID-related measures takes effect from Tuesday, November 1, just 19 days before the World Cup kicks off.

The arriving fans, players, officials, staff, and media are by far the biggest influx of visitors seen in Qatar, which has a population of about 2.9 million.

“Visitors are no longer required to present a negative Covid-19 PCR or Rapid Antigen Test result before traveling to Qatar,” a statement from the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said.

Qatari citizens and residents also no longer need to take PCR or rapid antigen tests within 24 hours of returning from abroad, MoPH added.

In the past, people had to register and submit necessary documents and acquire online approval on Ehteraz to enter the country.

Yousef al-Maslamani, medical director of Hamad General Hospital, was quoted by local media as saying the removal of all travel restrictions was due to the fall in the number of COVID cases and deaths.

“Those infected with COVID-19 will be isolated for a total of 10 days at home or in the hotel for travelers in two parts–five days of complete hotel isolation and five days after which we will allow the infected to leave, but with a condition that they must wear a mask when having contact with others but free to remove the mask when alone,” al-Maslamani said in a televised interview last week.

Last year’s delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics took place largely behind closed doors, and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics were held in a bio-secure bubble.

Qatari organizers and football’s governing body, FIFA, have said they want the World Cup, beginning on November 20, to be a sign the world is getting over the devastating pandemic.

But the MoPH has previously warned that special measures would be ordered “in the event of a worsening pandemic situation in the country”, such as the emergence of a threatening new variant.

Players and match officials may be forced into a secure “bio-bubble” if COVID cases take off again, with the threat of expulsion from the tournament for those who breach the secure environment, the ministry said last month.

The obligation to wear masks on public transport was removed in October and masks are not mandatory in the eight stadiums of the World Cup. According to MoPH, Qatar has reported 684 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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