Qatar Ends COVID Test Requirement Ahead of World Cup

Just weeks before more than a million football fans are expected in Qatar for the month-long World Cup tournament, the host country announced it had dropped most of its COVID-19 restrictions. .

Qatar’s Ministry of Health has announced that as of November 1, COVID-19 PCR test results or rapid antigen tests are not required for those traveling to the country, regardless of their vaccination status. . The ministry has also removed the requirement to register with the country’s Ehteraz contract search app (except for those who will be entering healthcare facilities while in Qatar). Travelers who test positive in Qatar will be required to self-isolate for seven days.

Public health experts have said the World Cup, which runs from November 20 to December 18, will be the biggest mass gathering of spectators since the start of the pandemic. Qatar is expected to welcome 1.2 million foreign visitors during the tournament, less than half of the 3.03 million spectators who attended the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Observers note that the drop in attendance is partly due to the country’s much smaller size. And given that the change in coronavirus policies came less than a month before the first game, it’s possible the stricter rules may have deterred potential participants.

About half a million non-residents are expected to descend on the small Gulf Arab state, which is slightly smaller than Connecticut, at the height of the games. During the World Cup, 32 international football teams will play 64 matches in eight stadiums in and around Doha.

Even with fewer participants than previous World Cup tournaments, there will be strains on Qatar’s tourism infrastructure. With limited places to stay in the host country – the total number of hotel rooms in Qatar is only around 29,000 – three mega cruise ships will be parked in the port to provide additional accommodation, including the MSc World Europe, which is holding its christening ceremony in Doha on November 13 and will make its maiden voyage after the games are over. Other participants will be commuting from neighboring states, such as Dubai. FlyDubai, a low-cost airline, plans to have up to 30 flights each way from Dubai to Qatar during the World Cup (it’s a 45-minute flight).

The 2022 World Cup stadiums will be able to seat at full capacity without COVID restrictions around social distancing or capacity limits – around 3 million tickets have gone on sale for the entire tournament. Just 16 months ago, the European Championship football tournament took place across the continent, with some stadiums only 25% full due to local COVID-19 rules.

Fans coming to Qatar have been advised, including on the Ministry of Health website, to purchase travel insurance and up-to-date COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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