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Qatar scaps pre-arrival Covid test requirement from Nov 1

Qatar is to drop pre-arrival COVID-19 tests before the World Cup, the Health Ministry said, weeks after announcing that the million-plus incoming fans do not need vaccinations.

The latest relaxation in anti-COVID measures will take effect on November 1, 19 days before the first World Cup on Arab territory starts on November 20.

The arriving fans, players, officials, staff and media are by far the biggest influx of visitors seen in tiny, gas-rich Qatar, which has a population of just 2.9 million.

“Visitors are no longer required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR or Rapid Antigen Test result before travelling to Qatar,” a statement said.

Qatari citizens and residents will also no longer need to take a PCR or rapid antigen test within 24 hours of returning from abroad, the Health Ministry added.

The 29-day tournament will be the first major global sporting event with fans since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in December 2019, killing more than six million people.

Last year’s delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics took place largely behind closed doors, and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics was held in a bio-secure bubble.

Qatari organisers and football’s governing body, FIFA, have said they want the event to be a sign the world is getting over the devastating pandemic.

But the health ministry has previously warned that special measures would be ordered “in the event of a worsening pandemic situation in the country”, such as the emergence of a threatening new variant.

Players and match officials may be forced into a secure “bio-bubble” if COVID-19 cases take off again, with the threat of expulsion from the tournament for those who breach the secure environment, the ministry said last month.

The measures announced Wednesday cover all visitors arriving from Nov 1, when Qatar will be closed to anyone without a Hayya card – the mandatory document given to players, officials, staff, media and ticket holders and their guests.

Under the existing rules until November 1, all visitors aged over six must provide negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar.

A requirement to wear masks on public transport was scrapped this month, and masks are also not compulsory in the eight World Cup stadiums.

Qatar has suffered 684 deaths from COVID-19, with 464,223 recovered patients, according to the Health Ministry’s website. (Source: cna)

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