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Qatar Banning Foriengers from Entering Country But Qatar Airways Will Continue to Fly and Transit in Doha is Permitted

Qatar Banning Foriengers from Entering Country But Qatar Airways Will Continue to Fly and Transit in Doha is Permitted

Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar is one of five 'aviation mega-cities' in the Middle East. That number is forecast to more than double to 11 cities in the region by 2036. Photo Credit: Qatar Airways

There is continued confusion over new restrictions imposed by Qatar’s Ministry of Health which may see Doha Hamad International Airport effectively closed to prevent any further spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus in the small Persian Gulf country. Yesterday, news leaked of a plan by authorities to ban all foreigners entering the country but it was initially unclear whether this also applied to transit passengers.

Doha’s Hamad International Airport is the country’s principal airport and the hub for Qatar Airways, used to connect passengers between its services to North America and Europe with Asia, Africa and Australasia.

Photo Credit: Airbus

Qatar Airways has sought to clarify the new restrictions, explaining that from midnight on March 18, only Qatari nationals will be allowed to enter the country after arriving into Doha. All returning Qatari citizens will be put into a 14-day quarantine.

For the time being, however, Qatar will continue to allow passengers to transit through Hamad International Airport. The airline said in a statement that it would continue its global operations and that the restrictions would be reviewed after 14-days.

But in a Tweet from the official Qatar Airways Arabic account, the airline has now said that its “first and last concern now is to transfer Qatari citizens from all over the world to the State of Qatar so that they can be with their family and loved ones in these difficult times.”

It’s unclear whether that means Qatar Airways will shift to operating repatriation flights and wind down its normal scheduled services. The airline urged any Qatari’s overseas to to “travel to Doha as quickly as possible”.

Qatar currently has 401 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. The number of confirmed cases shot up last week after the virus spread amongst a group of expat workers who lived in a shared accommodation block.

The State of Qatar would normally offer visa-free entry to citizens of 80 countries but started to restrict some foreign nationals early last week. Further restrictions were then placed on the citizens of Italy, France, Germany and Spain after Europe was declared the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A video of an interview with Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker apparently questioning the science behind the transmission of the virus emerged late last week. The interview appears to have taken place in February when the outbreak was largely confined to mainland China.

Baker had complained about entry restrictions imposed by several countries that made it harder for Qatar Airways to operate flights to China. The airline suspended services to the country and has not yet announced when those routes may restart.

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