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Biometric kiosk

Self-service machines that can scan Qatar residents’ eyes and fingerprints “in less than a minute” have been set up at Hamad International Airport, officials have announced.

These Ministry of Interior (MOI) kiosks will assist travelers who have had trouble using e-gate when trying to enter or leave Qatar.

They are available in both the arrivals and departures section of the airport, QNA reports.

MOI

Egate service

Technicians will be also be on hand to help travelers register their biometric data, officials said.

E-gate woes

Before last month, expats needed to pre-register for the speedy automated e-gate service at the immigration department in Madinat Khalifa. This involved paying a fee and logging their biometric data.

But officials recently made e-gate free and available to all foreign residents over the age of 18 years old.

At the end of last month, they said that anyone was welcome to use the service without signing up beforehand.

MOI/Facebook

E-gate at Hamad International Airport

Travelers just needed to scan their passport or Qatar ID card (even if it didn’t have a microchip) at an e-gate counter.

However, over the past few weeks this has caused problems at HIA immigration, as some travelers were confused about how to use the automated service.

According to Gulf Times, Major Khalid Muhammed al-Mulla, head of the Airport Passports section, said e-gate works like this:

“A passenger has to place the ID card on the e-reader at the e-gate, which will read the biometric data stored on the card and verify them. The first glass barrier will open if he has got the leave notification (exit permit) as well.

At the next part of the e-gate, the machine will match the data obtained from the travel document and the scan of the eye and fingerprint. If the data matches, the device will open the final gate, enabling the passenger to move either to the boarding gate or baggage collection area (as the case may be).”

How is e-gate working for you? Thoughts?

April Younglove / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Reacting to avian flu outbreaks in other countries, Qatar has begun cracking down on live bird imports and exports.

According to Al Raya, a temporary ban has been placed on this type of animal.

A source at the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) told the newspaper that the ban also applies to some fresh poultry and eggs.

Pietro Izzo / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In the past few weeks, different strains of the bird flu virus have emerged in France, South Korea, India, the UK and many other nations.

In some countries, birds got sick and died of the flu, while in others, humans contracted the virus and grew ill or died.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia has in the past 10 days banned chickens and eggs from India, parts of France and Poland over bird flu concerns.

Safety first

The MME source told Al Raya that all poultry products currently inside of Qatar are safe and subject to rigorous inspection.

These imports cannot pass through Qatar’s ports of entry without certification from their home country that they are free of infectious diseases, he added.

William Brawley/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Veterinarians are also keeping tabs on geese, ostriches and other birds at local farms.

A few months ago in October, the MME said it was taking “precautionary measures” to protect residents against the spread of bird flu.

The virus can cause fever, malaise, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, abdominal pain, chest pain and diarrhea. These can then develop quickly and cause severe respiratory problems.

In a statement last week, the World Health Organization said:

“WHO advises that travelers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid, if possible, poultry farms, contact with animals in live bird markets, entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals.

Travelers should also wash their hands often with soap and water, and follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.”

Thoughts?

Matthew Smith/Wikimedia

Damas tree

The Damas tree, a common plant whose complex roots damage underground water pipes, can no longer be imported, sold or planted in Qatar, officials have said.

According to local media reports, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) has asked nurseries to stop bringing the Conocarpus lancifolius trees into the country.

The fast-growing plants can tolerate heat, drought and salty soil, and are commonly used in landscaping across the Gulf region.

Ulf Mehlig/Wikimedia

Damas plant

But the MME’s Public Parks Department said the Damas trees are strangling underground pipes and choking drains with their roots.

Regional ‘menace’

The Damas tree has many redeeming qualities, including its low cost, but authorities across the GCC have been railing against it for years.

In 2012 for example, developer Emaar launched a “Say no to Damas” campaign after the trees began cracking walls of compounds and damaging homes.

At the time, a Saudi newspaper called the tree a “menace” despite its ability to provide shade and act like a privacy fence between neighbors.

It is likely that in Qatar, the plant will not disappear completely.

According to the Peninsula, the MME said it will make certain exceptions for people buying through ministry nurseries.

Thoughts?