On Monday, June 8, Qatari authorities announced that coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions will be eased from Monday, June 15, as the first stage in a four-phase normalization plan. Some mosques will be permitted to reopen, and flights will be able to depart, although arrivals will remain suspended. The mosques that are to reopen will be announced at a later date, and will not open for Friday prayers. The second phase of easing, expected to begin on July 1, will see the partial reopening of restaurants and malls, as well as museums, and markets. The third phase, from August 1, will permit the total reopening of malls, and the limited reopening of health clubs, gyms, swimming pools, and salons. Flights from low-risk countries will be permitted for priority passengers, such as returning residents. The fourth phase, from September 1, will see the lifting of restrictions on larger gatherings and the reopening of theatres, museums, libraries, cinemas, and mosques, as well as the resumption of regular flight schedules. However, this schedule may be subject to change depending on the number of new COVID-19 cases.
The announcement follows the easing of some measures on June 4, with up to four people now being permitted to travel in vehicles, and a ban on exercise outdoors without a face mask rescinded. The wearing of face masks remains mandatory in Qatar, except if alone whilst driving or exercising. It is also mandatory to download Qatar's contact tracing app, Ehteraz. Checkpoints have been set up to check compliance, and a violation of COVID-19 regulations is punishable by a fine of up to QR200,000 ($54,930) and/or up to three years in prison.
As of Tuesday, June 9, authorities have confirmed 70,158 cases of COVID-19 in Qatar and 57 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over 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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