Health authorities announced new travel guidelines as the new variant spreads in the region.
Qatar has updated its ‘Travel and Return Policy’ as the Omicron variant makes an appearance in the region for the first time.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman all reported their first cases of the new coronavirus variant on Wednesday, recording the first known Omicron infections in the Gulf region.
The neighboring kingdom said the citizen carrying the variant was coming from a “North African country,” adding that the infection was the Gulf’s first confirmed case. The local news agency reported that the infected individual and all his close contacts are now in quarantine.
Hours later, the UAE also reported its first case of the Omicron variant and the second in the region. State-run WAM news agency reported that the infected individual is an African woman who travelled from an African country through an Arab country, without specifying which nations.
Public health authorities have placed her in isolation, as well as those who were in contact with her, the agency added.
Similarly, Oman has also reported its first case.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the new variant as a “variant of concern” and Qatar’s MoPH has urged those eligible for a Covid-19 booster shot to book in their appointment as soon as possible to ensure some protection against the new mutation.
The latest discovery of the new variant has sparked fear across the world with WHO warning of a great number of mutations that pose a risk of reinfection.
Health experts earlier warned that the Omicron variant could be the strongest Covid-19 strain due to its large numbers of mutations.
However, Qatar has yet to report any infections with the new “deadly” variant – a feat officials have attributed to the Gulf state’s strong travel restrictions and high vaccination rate.
The ministry of health has announced new updates to its travel and vaccine policies as the new mutations cause panic worldwide.
On Thursday, authorities added Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, to the list of ‘Conditionally Approved Covid-19 Vaccine’s within its Travel and Return Policy. However, Serology Antibody test with a positive result is mandatory before landing in Qatar.
In a statement, the ministry stressed two doses of Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V and Covaxin are the conditionally approved vaccines.
The approval comes into immediate effect.
Meanwhile, travel restrictions have also been updated, effective immediately, as follows:
Exceptional Red List
The number of countries under the Exceptional Red List has now risen to 16, including South Africa, where the new variant was first reported by health experts looking into mutations found in Europe.
As per the new guidelines, the countries in the list have been divided into two categories.
Vaccinated and unvaccinated GCC citizens coming from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will be subject to hotel quarantine for seven days upon arrival in the country. Qataris, however, will have the option to choose to undergo home quarantine instead.
Returning vaccinated residents from the six countries have to undergo a seven day quarantine period, two days hotel, and five days home quarantine, the ministry stated.
Unvaccinated residents and vaccinated visitors will have to hotel quarantine the seven days.
Unvaccinated visitors from these countries are not allowed entry to the Gulf nation to ensure the community’s safety as the new variant continues to spread worldwide.
All groups will need to conduct a negative PCR test within 72 hours before arrival in Qatar, upon arriving at the country, and on the sixth day of quarantine before being released from quarantine on the seventh day.
Meanwhile, citizens coming from the remaining exceptional red list countries will be subjected to home quarantine for two days if fully vaccinated. If not, they will be required to home quarantine for seven days upon arrival.
As for residents of Qatar and GCC citizens, fully vaccinated travellers will be subject to hotel quarantine for two days upon arrival in the state.
Unvaccinated arrivals will be subject to hotel quarantine for seven days.
On the other hand, fully vaccinated visitors with pre-approved and on-arrival visas will be subject to hotel quarantine for two days upon arrival.
However, unvaccinated visitors are prohibited from entering Qatar.
As for entry requirements, all travellers must conduct a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arriving and another test on the first day of quarantine for all age groups.
Green and Red list countries
As per the new guidelines, the green and red lists have been divided into Group A and B.
Group A includes all Qatar citizens and residents, who are fully vaccinated, inside or outside Qatar, by a vaccine approved by the Ministry of Public Health, or who have a conditionally approved vaccine, or who have recovered from Covid-19 inside Doha, with at least 14 days passing from the date of recovery.
Travellers from countries listed green or red will be exempted from quarantine upon arrival in Qatar on the condition they abide by the test policy listed on the ministry’s official website.
As for travellers from green listed countries, who are not vaccinated, ineligible for the vaccine, or who have not completed the necessary vaccination doses, home quarantine is required for seven days upon arrival in the country.
Those coming from red listed countries will be subject to home quarantine for seven days upon arrival.
GCC citizens coming from green listed countries fully vaccinated, inside or outside Qatar, by a vaccine approved by MoPH, or who have a conditionally approved vaccine, or who have recovered from Covid-19 within a GCC country and 14 days have passed from the date of recovery, provided that one dose of an approved vaccine has been given, are exempted from quarantine.
However, those coming from red listed countries will be subject to hotel quarantine for two days upon arrival in Qatar.
As for GCC travellers who are not fully vaccinated or ineligible for the vaccine or who have not completed the required vaccine doses, they are required to hotel quarantine for seven days upon arrival.
GCC citizens (non-residents) coming to stay with first-degree relatives residing in Qatar are subject to home quarantine for seven days upon arrival provided they present a proof of the relationship and national address data.
Group B lists quarantine and test policy for visitors to Doha with pre-approved and on-arrival visas.
In this category, travellers from countries under the green list and fully vaccinated by a vaccine approved by MoPH or received one of the conditionally approved vaccines are exempted from quarantining. But for those from the red list countries, hotel quarantine for two days is required upon arrival.
On the other hand, travellers from both green and red listed countries, who are not fully vaccinated or who have not completed the required vaccine doses will be subject to hotel quarantine for seven days upon arrival in the country regardless of age.
Those with pre-issued family visas to visit one of their first-degree relatives residing in Qatar will be subject to home quarantine for seven days provided they present a proof of the relationship and national address data.
All travel guidelines and test policy are available on the MoPH official website.