There has been confusion amongst people travelling to Qatar over travel restrictions and guidelines.
A number of travellers entering Qatar through the shared Abu Samra border with Saudi Arabia took to social media to complain about the chaos at the crossing.
Videos circulating on social media showed cars lining up at the border awaiting their entry into Qatar. Some cars were also seen being turned away after waiting in long queues for not having a valid PCR test pre-arrival.
عودة المسافرين وعدم دخولهم بسبب عدم وجود فحص PCR ..
لماذا لا يتم فحص المسافرين فحص سريع في منفذ بوسمرة بدل ارجاعهم !!
للعلم تقريباً جميع دول الخليج لا تطلب فحص PCR .. pic.twitter.com/6cy0HsitfO
— جاسم الكواري (@alkuwari2012) March 11, 2022
“A number of citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council have not been able to enter through Abu Samra or had to wait for hours until the completion of their registration on the platform despite being vaccinated,” tweeted Jaber Al Harmi, a prominent Qatari journalist.
Al Harmi said that whilst precautionary measures are important, “complications are rejected”.
A Twitter user also claimed that his friend had to turn back from Abu Samra after traveling to the country and booking a hotel for his stay. Others have complained over what they described as “complicated” entry requirements.
“The only thing that I did not understand is that the World Cup is coming up and Qatar for tourism is working and at the same time there are these complicated procedures for people coming to Qatar especially through land,” said Qatari entrepreneur Hamad Al-Hajri.
The complaints suggest a confusion over Qatar’s entry policies that are highlighted on the Government Communications Office’s (GCO) website. By taking the survey on the website, which is available in both Arabic and English, one can understand Qatar’s entry requirements.
The website states that “non-citizens and residents of Qatar are required to register through the Ehteraz website at least 3 days before travel, and upload the required official documents.”
It also says that “all travellers are required to install and activate Ehteraz app on their mobile phone using a local or international SIM card.”
Responding to the complaints on social media, a Twitter user said that a Bahraini visitor that visited Qatar said that the entry into Abu Samra was “smooth”, because he had pre-registered into the Ehteraz app.
Some have called on authorities, including the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) to establish Covid-testing facilities rather than asking those who had traveled for miles to return to their country of departure.
“Is it so hard for you, the health ministry, to establish a PCR testing centre in Abu Samra? Why are you embarrassing us amongst our Gulf brothers? This is exaggerated to be honest,” tweeted one person.
The Abu Samra border has been witnessing an influx of visitors following the lifting of the illegal air, land and sea blockade on Qatar, with the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration on 5 January, 2021.
The embargo was initially imposed on Qatar in 2017 by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt, impacting Qatar’s land and air travel routes. More than 900 cars have crossed the Abu Samra border within the first three days of opening.
Travel increased in recent days as more countries have introduced booster shots and recorded a dip in daily infections following the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Last week, Saudi Arabia scrapped most of its Covid-19 restrictions regarding social distancing and mobility. The move would encourage more visitors to travel to Saudi Arabia, especially ahead of the Holy Ramadan season.
PCR and rapid antigen tests along with home quarantine are no longer required for those arriving in the Kingdom.
People complaining about the situation at Abu Samra have also called on authorities to ease travel restrictions for GCC citizens.
As more travellers are expected to flock to Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Land Customs Department announced last November that the Abu Samra crossing will be expanded to facilitate traffic to and from the country.
The major sporting event is the first to be held in the Middle East, with 1.2 million travellers expected to visit Qatar.