The government of Qatar has implemented a series of new measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including the suspension of most commercial activities until Saturday, May 30. The measures have been taken to prevent an increase in infection rate during the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holidays. All retail outlets will be closed, except for food and catering shops, and pharmacies and restaurant delivery services that have applied for and received approval to operate with the Ministry of Trade. From Tuesday, May 19, outdoor exercise is only permitted in close proximity to one's place of residence until further notice. Limits have also been placed on the number of people permitted to travel in private vehicles. No more than two people will be permitted with exceptions of three people for vehicles driven by a family driver or for taxis.
The government has also stated that all citizens are obliged to install the EHTERAZ app on their phones and will be required to have it on when leaving the house from Friday, May 22. The contact tracing app uses GPS and Bluetooth technology to help track COVID-19 cases and inform users if they have come into contact with those who have tested positive. Mobile security forces patrols are being deployed and checkpoints set up to check compliance with the measures put in place and violations of the restrictions will result in fines and/or a prison sentence for those found uncompliant.
Since Sunday, May 17, all Qatar residents are required to wear face masks outside of their homes. The only exception applies to those driving in a car with no other passengers. Those who fail to comply with the measures will be sanctioned, either with a maximum of three days in prison and/or a fine of QR 200,000 (USD 55,000). Previously, masks were compulsory for employees of select sectors and in some public spaces. The Industrial Area in Doha has reopened with precautionary measures in place to control the COVID-19 spread in the area. Gyms, including those at hotels, are to remain closed.
The suspension of flights at Doha's Hamad International Airport (DOH) also remains in place until further notice. Exceptions have been made for food and medical cargo. A ban on the entry of foreign nationals remains in place, as of Tuesday, March 17. All returning nationals will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
As of Wednesday, May 20, there are 35,606 confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide, including 15 deaths. Further spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the outbreak as a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
The measures adopted by local authorities are evolving fluidly, and are usually effective immediately. Authorities are likely to modify - at very short notice - the list of countries subject to border control measures on arrival to the territory. Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
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