Qatar shuts out foreigners, rolls out stimulus package as COVID-19 cases pass 400

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Intensifying its fight against COVID-19, Qatar on Sunday announced a slew of measures including stopping all incoming flights from March 18 for two weeks, suspending public transport services with immediate effect and a mega financial package of QR75bn to support the private sector.

Presiding over the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management meeting that reviewed Qatar’s preparedness to combat the spread of the new coronavirus (Covid 19), Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani ordered to initiate a set of decisions and measures to help people lead a normal life.

“The Supreme Committee for Crisis Management, chaired by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has decided to adopt a number of decisions and packages. They include educational, financial and transport initiatives that will help all sectors of the society,” announced HE Lolwah Rashid AlKhater, Assistant Foreign Minister and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a press conference on Sunday.

“As per the decisions, all inbound flights to Qatar will be stopped as of March 18 for two weeks, except transit flights, cargo flights and flights carrying Qatar nationals from other countries. We will review the situation at the end of two weeks and appropriate decisions will be taken depending on the prevailing situation then,” stated AlKhater.

“Certain groups of people- employees over the age of 55, pregnant women, and people suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease, and stress- will be allowed to work from home,” she said.

“All public transport, both Karwa and Doha Metro is stopped from 10pm Sunday (March 15) until further notice. All the public, private and university students will begin distance learning from Sunday. The 12th grade students of public schools will sit exams on time and at the exams headquarters, which will be announced later,” she said.

AlKhater noted that the most important announcement is the financial package with a number of provisions to boost the private sector. “Qatar has decided to inject QR75bn into the private sector which no other countries have done so far. The government will also put in QR 10bn into the stock market. The Qatar Central Bank will provide additional liquidity to banks operating in the country and the banks will postpone loan installments and obligations of the private sector for a grace period of six months,” she explained.

The Qatar Development Bank (QDB) is to postpone the installments for all borrowers for a period of six months.

The official also announced that food and medical goods will be exempt from customs duties for a period of six months, provided that this is reflected in the selling price to the consumer. “A number of sectors will be exempt from electricity and water charges for a period of six months. They include, hospitality and tourism sector; retail sector; small and medium industries sector; commercial complexes, in exchange for providing services and exemptions to tenants, as well as logistics areas,” she pointed out.

The official added that the logistical areas and small and medium industries will be exempted from rent for a period of six months.

AlKhater urged everyone to avoid travel and cooperate with the directives given by the health ministry and other authorities to fight the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

Qatari students studying abroad have been advised to adhere to the policies of the host countries and to approach Qatari embassies in case of urgent needs.

Citizens and residents are both urged to avoid travel during the coming period.

Qatar on Sunday confirmed 64 more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of people infected by the virus in the country to 401, according to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

So far, 7,950 people have been tested for Covid-19 in Qatar. According to the MoPH, a majority of them haven’t shown any symptoms of the virus. Qatar hasn’t reported any fatality linked to the virus or termed any case as being ‘critical’ so far.

Meanwhile, four coronavirus-infected persons recovered on Saturday.

The same day, the ministry confirmed 17 more cases of coronavirus. All of them were among those under observation for having been in contact with individuals previously tested positive for the virus.

They are receiving proper medical care and are in stable condition, the ministry said.