After over a year of family visa suspension due to Covid-19 restrictions, Qatar seems to be slowly opening up its borders for visitors.
The ministry of interior’s mobile application, Metrash2 is now allowing Pakistani and Indian expatriates to apply for family resident visa applications.
Although there has yet to be an official announcement from the government about the opening of family visas, an update to the application now allows for residents from both aforementioned Asian countries to fill in details and submit relevant papers.
While the option is currently only available for the two specified countries, more is expected to be added soon as cases continue to decrease in the country.
Visit visas are still closed due to Covid-19.
The welcome news comes as a sigh of relief for thousands of expatriates in Qatar, many of which have been waiting for more than a year to reunite with families.
Authorities in Qatar initially closed off borders for visitors as part of restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the Gulf state.
Read also: Qatar’s Covid-19 cases drop below 100
Since then, calls to re-open family visas have continued, with thousands urging authorities to help them reunite with their loved ones. With daily Covid-19 cases now falling below 100 and an increase in vaccination numbers, the country seems to be slowly easing visa restrictions once more.
In August 2020, Qatari authorities announced resident permit [RP] holders could apply for an ‘Exceptional Entry Permit’ [EEP] to return to the country.
Precautions such as home quarantine for those coming from designated low-risk countries, as well as hotel quarantine for those coming from other destinations were also put in place to help mitigate the risk of the spread of Covid-19.
The aim of the EEP system was to stagger the return of residents to the country to reduce the risk of a spike in coronavirus numbers. Despite the ‘easy’ registration process, many people reported that their applications were being rejected without giving the applicants a reason.
In fact, in August it was estimated that more than 250,000 residents were abroad and waiting to come back to Qatar, though as some continue to receive approvals, this number is now likely to be much lower.
Months later in November 2020, circumstances took a turn for the better and authorities said EEP’s would be automatically approved for anyone leaving the country after the announcement. Though this helped those wishing to travel, it did little to quell the desperate calls of citizens stranded abroad.
Since then, travel to and from Qatar has been fairly straightforward, with unvaccinated residents needing to quarantine at a hotel when coming from most countries around the world, with the exception of a few countries on the Ministry of Public Health’s ‘green list.’
But for those who were stuck outside of Qatar before the EEP was abolished, the process is still ongoing.
Now, the opening of the family visas and visa applications may work as a factor in solving the issue for those still stranded abroad due to Covid-19 restrictions, giving people hope to reunite with their families.
Drop in Covid-19 cases
On Monday, figures from the Ministry of Public Health showed just 65 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 among the community and 28 among travellers.
This brings the total number of reported Covid-19 cases to 93, the lowest in months.
Meanwhile, figures show almost 98% of the most vulnerable population group in Qatar, those over the age of 60, have received one dose of the vaccine while almost 93% of the same group has received both doses.
Since the start of the national Covid-19 inoculation programme, 3,276,416 doses have been administered, with 76% of the eligible population receiving at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Covid-19 related restrictions, as well as the rapid vaccination programme, have contributed to the drop in daily infection cases. However, the ministry has warned the public to continue abiding by precautionary measures.
On 18 June, the second phase of the gradual lifting of precautionary restrictions began. This is part of a four-stage plan to be implemented over the coming months, which began on May 28. Soon after the first phase began, Qatar’s daily cases fell below 200.
Meanwhile, in its efforts to inoculate the entire population, Qatar has opened one of the largest vaccination centres in the world, the Qatar Vaccination Center for the Business and Industry Sector.
The inauguration of the centre has led to the closing of the Qatar National Convention Center [QCC]’s Covid-19 vaccination centre as well as the two drive-through vaccination centres in Lusail and Al Wakra.