COVID-19 has changed international travel. Now, each country has different rules, regulations, and requirements when it comes to entering and traveling there. With the World Cup coming up in Qatar, it’s important to understand this country’s particular requirements.
COVID-19 is a coronavirus that has been spreading around the world since late 2019. In the spring of 2020, the crisis escalated to pandemic levels across the planet. The virus is most commonly transmitted by droplets. When someone who is infected breathes or coughs, these droplets are in the air. When an uninfected person breathes in a large enough number of these droplets, they will also become infected.
COVID-19 can present as asymptomatic and it can also cause severe disease and even death. There’s currently no way to tell who will get extremely ill with the disease. Currently, there are vaccines available for COVID-19. These do not prevent infection, but they are effective at preventing severe disease. Booster vaccines may be necessary to maintain immunity and slow or prevent disease transmission. People who have recovered from COVID may also have immunity for a while.
Qatar has done better than many countries of similar size and population throughout the pandemic. While it has seen its fair share of illness and death, its percentages for both are lower than other, similar countries. This is likely due to the preventative measures that Qatar put in place, including closing down schools and workplaces and closing its borders.
Still, Qatar has experienced three infection peaks, which coincide with peaks in other locations both nearby and around the world. At the time of writing, they are not in a peak. Currently, Qatar has administered enough vaccine doses to cover more than 100% of its population. This likely indicates that some people have also had booster shots.
Entry into Qatar is allowed during the pandemic. Visitors who need them must still obtain visas before they travel to Qatar. In addition, visitors now need to prove that they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 within the last year. Otherwise, they will need to quarantine upon arrival. Some people may need to quarantine anyway, depending on the country they are arriving from. The only people not allowed into Qatar currently are visitors from non-Gulf Red countries (see more below) who have not been vaccinated and have not recovered from COVID recently.
Qatar has broken the world into two categories for the purposes of determining the rules for entry during COVID. Red countries are those where disease transmission is currently high and/or where vaccination rates are currently low. All other countries are considered Standard under Qatar’s plan. People coming from Red countries will be subject to stricter rules when entering Qatar than those coming from Standard countries. The list of Red countries is subject to change, based on COVID-19 infection rates around the world. As these change, the list will change, too.
Currently, the Red list includes Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. The exact requirements for entering Qatar depend on two items: the country the person is arriving from and their status in Qatar. Qatari citizens and residents, for example, face different rules than those entering from other Gulf states, which are different from those for all other visitors. Every traveler will need to determine the rules that apply to them and ensure that they are in compliance before they attempt to visit Qatar.
The COVPass health app is an app for people who are nationals of European Union member states or who are residents there. The app is like a vaccine pass, showing who has received their COVID-19 vaccines and when they were given. It will also show that someone has recovered from COVID. EU citizens can use the app to show their vaccination status. This app is accepted for entry into Qatar as long as the person has the required vaccine or recovery status. If a person has not been vaccinated and has not recently recovered from COVID, they will need to fill out Qatar’s pre-entry registration and quarantine as instructed.
Nearly all travelers to Qatar will need either a rapid antigen test or a PCR test, or both after they arrive. The specific requirements depend on whether a person is coming from a Standard or a Red country and whether they are vaccinated/recovered or not. These requirements are subject to change without notice, depending on the current status of the pandemic. Individual travelers are responsible for determining what testing rules apply to them and ensuring that they comply when they arrive in Qatar.
Note that self-testing is not permitted for any official test in Qatar. Visitors can go to an approved public or private clinic to have their official testing performed. Visitors who are required to quarantine in a hotel will have their testing done at the hotel, as part of their quarantine package. Qatar may also perform random testing of both visitors and nationals arriving by land, air, or sea. Visitors must submit to these tests in order to visit Qatar. Additionally, most travelers will need to submit negative results on a PCR test taken within 48 hours before they depart their home country in order to get permission to travel to Qatar.
When entering Qatar, a quarantine is necessary for all travelers who are not vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID. This 5-day quarantine can take place at home, for citizens and residents, at the home of close family members, or at a hotel. Different categories of visitors will need to quarantine in different types of locations, and travelers will need to prove they have made these arrangements prior to arrival in Qatar.
Non-citizen and non-resident visitors from Red countries both in the Gulf and outside of it will need to complete a 1-day quarantine in a hotel. They will need a negative rapid test to get out of quarantine. Travelers who need to quarantine in a hotel will need to book a “Welcome Home” package through Qatar’s official website. They will need proof that they have done this in order to enter. There may be other quarantine measures in place for travelers in special circumstances. Travelers who are unsure should contact the Qatari embassy in their country before traveling.
Travel during COVID-19 is more complex than it used to be, but it’s still worthwhile. Visitors who want to attend the World Cup should ensure they meet the requirements to enter Qatar.