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Posted On: 24 May 2020 11:00 am
Updated On: 26 May 2020 05:43 pm

What is the plan for gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Qatar? Here's the four-phase plan

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As part of the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Qatar, the government issued a range of restrictions to promote physical distancing and help flatten the curve. This includes restricting inbound flights, preventing social gatherings, closing non-essential businesses, suspension of schools, working remotely, and stopping Metro and buses, among others.

As of May 22, Qatar has 32,569 active cases of COVID-19 with 180,642 people tested. The rate of recovery is increasing, with 7,893 now COVID-19 free and fatality count remains low with only 19 deaths. Even though we are still in the peak phase of the pandemic, a lot of people are curious to know when the restrictions will be lifted, especially inbound flights as lots of expats are stuck in their home country.

Although there were no dates mentioned, a report from the Health Protection & Communicable Disease Control of the Ministry of Public Health outlined the overarching plan of Qatar on easing the social distancing restrictions and reopening the country. This plan may change depending on the circumstances in the following months.

In an interview with Al Jazeera early this month, H.E. Dr. Hanan Mohammed Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, mentioned that there will definitely be easing of restrictions but it will be gradual and in stages, with the lowest risk activities the first to be opened up. She explained that opening up measures too quickly without public measures in place could lead to a second curve and we definitely would not want that. "Our priority as a country is always the safety of our population. We will not open the measures unless it is safe to do that. We will keep the activities that are highest risk to our population as the last to open up.", she added.

Let's check out the areas that will be opened up in the four stages of the plan as written in the Ministry of Public Health's report.

Phase 1

  • 80% of the employees working remotely and selected private healthcare facilities will open.
  • Essential and high-value shops will be allowed to open while operating under restricted hours.
  • Professional training for sports will be reinstated provided that it's outdoor only and that it's 1:1 and 1:5.
  • As for the education sector, school exams will proceed upon confirmation from the Ministry of Education.

Phase 2

Editorial credit: Benny Marty / Shutterstock

The second stage will see the social distancing restrictions starting to relax as the following will be allowed:

  • Social gatherings of less than 10 people will be allowed.
  • The public will now be able to enjoy outdoor facilities again such as parks, Corniche, and beaches along with museums and libraries.
  • For the businesses, all shops will be permitted to reopen, including Souq Waqif albeit operating still in shortened hours.
  • Wholesale markets will now be open again to the public.
  • However, food establishments will still operate through takeaway and delivery.
  • The closure of entertainment and leisure facilities will continue.
  • For outdoor sports, professional training of groups of less than 10 people will now be allowed.

This stage will have no change in the decision to have the majority of employees working remotely.

Phase 3

The most awaited lifting of restrictions on inbound flights will happen at this stage.

  • Low-risk inbound flights for priority passengers will resume, which includes flights for returning residents.
  • More businesses will also reopen including the following:
    • health clubs
    • beauty and massage parlors
    • gyms and pools
    • barbershops and hairdressers (50% capacity)
    • driving schools
    • all souqs ( restricted hours)
    • all malls will now open for full hours with the exclusion of entertainment and leisure facilities.
    • Businesses will now be allowed to have 40% of their employees return to the workplace.
  • Social gatherings of less than 40 people will now be allowed with mosques and other places of worship to gradually reopen.
  • Families will be able to enjoy playgrounds and skate parks again.
  • For the sports sector, team training and amateur sports comprised of less than 40 people will now be allowed. Team competitions are now permitted provided there are no spectators.

Phase 4

The final stage will see the return to "normalcy" as the state furthers the easing of restrictions.

Editorial credit: Sophie James / Shutterstock.com
  • All gatherings are now allowed to happen:
    • Weddings
    • Business-related mass gatherings
    • Trade shows and conferences
    • Entertainment-related mass gatherings like large concerts, festivals, exhibitions, events, summer camps, summer clubs, and summer cultural activities.
    • Mosques and religious gatherings will continue to reopen.
  • On the business side, we will see the reopening of:
    • Food outlets
    • Food trucks
    • Theatres and cinemas
    • Nurseries and childcare facilities
    • Food courts inside malls and restaurants will be allowed to have a dine-in 50% occupancy.
  • Metro and bus services will start again (restricted service)
  • The travel sector will see more inbound flights coming in (as advised by MoPH) and cruise ship visits.
  • Personal boats, sea cruisers, and excursion boats will be allowed to set sail again.
  • At this point, 60% of the employees can now return to the workplace and the new academic year for students will now commence.

When can we watch sports events?

According to the same MoPH's report, the number of spectators allowed in sports events will gradually increase according to the following timeline. From zero spectators, the number of spectators slowly increases by up to 50% capacity from June 25 to September 24.

While it's reassuring to know that there is a strategic plan to reopen the country, we should take note that this is not cut in stone and may change according to the situation as restrictions are eased so as to prevent a second wave.

We must all do our part in the fight against COVID-19 by practicing proper hygiene, physical distancing, and staying home when sick.

Source: Update on COVID-19 - Surveillance & Outbreak, Health Protection & Communicable Disease Control, MOPH