Cairo: Having seen significant declines in COVID-19 incidences in recent month, Arab Gulf countries have doubled down on their efforts to protect public health amid a global scare over the new highly transmissible Omicron variant. These countries have updated their travel policies to curtail the COVID-19 spread and urged people to receive the booster shots to enhance their immunity.
The largest and most populous Gulf country, Saudi Arabia, has shortened the time interval for getting the booster shot against COVID-19 from six months to three.
The kingdom’s Health Ministry said this week that reserving an appointment for the booster shot is now available three months after getting the second dose of vaccination.
Earlier this month, an official source at the Saudi Interior Ministry said beginning of February 1, receiving the booster shot will be necessary for maintaining the status of full immunisation shown on the health app “Tawakkalna” for everyone aged 18 and above who got the second dose eight months ago.
Full immunisation is mandatory for accessing public and private institutions in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has also urged its people to avoid unnecessary travel outside the country, particularly to high-risk countries, amid concerns over Omicron.
Saudi Arabia confirmed its first Omicron case on December 1.
The kingdom has temporarily halted flights to and from 15 African countries over Omicron worries.
Exempted from the entry ban are travellers who have stayed at least 14 days outside any of these countries.
Saudi citizens arriving from all travel-banned countries are required to spend five days in domestic quarantine and do PCR testing on the first and fifth days of quarantine irrespective of their status of immunisation.
Saudi Arabia has also urged arrivals at the kingdom’s ports to disclose earlier visits to coronavirus-stricken countries, warning that failure to do so entails tough legal measures. Offenders face fines up to SR500,000.
The COVID-19 curve has recently shown an upward trend in the kingdom after months of a marked decline.
Saudi Arabia so far has registered a total of 551,210 COVID-19 cases and 8,865 related deaths.
Starting from December 26, all arrivals in Kuwait will have to go into domestic quarantine for 10 days as part of a raft of measures announced this week by the government to limit the COVID-19. However, the home quarantine can end earlier if a negative PCR test is done 72 hours after arrival in Kuwait.
The latest preventive steps also obligate all passengers arriving in the country to present a negative PCR test done 48 hours earlier.
The Kuwaiti government has made receiving a booster shot against COVID-19 mandatory starting from January 2 for people who obtained the second dose of vaccination nine months ago. Mobile vaccination campaigns are afoot across Kuwait to administer the booster shots at different workplaces.
The government also advised citizens and expatriates against travel unless necessary, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases around the world.
Kuwait reported its first Omicron case earlier this month and suspended flights from nine African nations until further notice. Today (December 22) it reported 15 new cases. They are South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zambia and Malawi. Expatriates arriving from these countries are barred from entering Kuwait unless they have stayed for at 14 days outside them.
Kuwait has so far recorded a tally of 414,270 coronavirus cases and 2,466 related fatalities.
Having already detected 17 Omicron cases, Oman has cut down the time interval for receiving booster shots to three months instead of sixth from getting the second dose of vaccination effective Tuesday (December 21). Health authorities in the sultanate have also urged citizens and foreign residents to get the boosters.
According to the sultanate’s latest travel update, Omani citizens, foreign residents and travellers with valid visas are allowed to enter the country without prior approval.
Passengers arriving from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique and those who have been in these countries within 14 days from the date of arrival are not permitted to enter Oman.
Omanis, diplomats, health workers, and their families as well as citizens of these seven countries who have valid residence in Oman are excluded from the ban. However, they all are required to do a COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival and go into mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine. They will have to take another COVID-19 test on the sixth day.
All arrivals in Oman are required to present a COVID-19 vaccine certificate containing a QR code stating that they have received two doses of any COVID-19 vaccine approved in Oman. They are Pfizer/ BioNTech, Oxford Astrazeneca, Covishield AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinovac, Moderna, and Sinopharm, or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson. The last dose must have been received not less than 14 days before the arrival time.
Except for Omani citizens, all passengers must have health insurance for at least one month covering expenses of COVID-19 treatment.
Moreover, all travellers coming to the sultanate are required before their arrival to: pre-register via (https://covid19.emushrif.om) and upload the vaccine and PCR certificates, both containing QR codes.
Oman so far has confirmed a total of 304,938 coronavirus cases and 4,113 related deaths.
The kingdom confirmed detecting its first Omicron case on December 11 in a person who arrived from abroad. Bahrain has so far confirmed a total of 278,714 virus cases and 1,394 related fatalities.
Last week, Bahraini civil aviation authorities made it mandatory for all arrivals in the country to present a PCR certificate as a precaution against the spread of the new Omicron variant. The measure went into effect on December 19. Accordingly, all travellers arriving in Bahrain from age of six and above are required to show an accredited PCR certificate containing the QR code before boarding flights to Bahrain.
The test must be done within 48 hours of the departure time.
On Friday, Qatar announced detecting its first four Omicron cases in citizens and expatriates returning from overseas trips. The detections made Qatar the last among the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council to report the highly infectious mutant. Qatar so far has registered a total of 246,897 COVID-19 cases and 614 related deaths.
The Qatari government Wednesday urged all eligible people to get the booster shot to “continue to enjoy high levels of protection” and help keep a stable health situation in the country.
Based on a travel policy update that came into effect on December 1, non-residents of Qatar are required to register via a pre-registration system on www.ehteraz.gov.qa website and upload all relevant documents such as vaccine certificates at least three days before arrival. Although pre-registration is optional for Qatar’s citizens and foreign residents, all individuals heading to the country are recommended to pre-register to facilitate their entry procedures upon arrival.
Moreover, a PCR test result is no longer required during the electronic pre-registration process. Instead, travellers must present the original copy of the PCR test result to the airlines to allow them to board the plane, or at the country’s ports. Qatari health authorities have the right to conduct random examinations of passengers upon arrival in the country.
All passengers must sign an undertaking and a pre-arrival acknowledgment form available on the Ministry of Public Health website, pre-registration platform (www.ehteraz.gov.qa) and airline online booking form.
Travellers must take a PCR test result at medical centres accredited by health authorities in the country of departure. The result must be negative and must be done 72 hours before arrival in Qatar.
Arrivals in Qatar have to go to the COVID-19 test clinic at the access port should they experience any coronavirus-related symptoms and take the necessary isolation measures. Anti-virus vaccines recognised by Qatar are BioNTech, Moderna, AsraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, while the conditionally approved vaccines are Sinopharm, Sinovack, Sputnik and Covaxin.
A serology antibody test with a positive result is mandatory before travelling to Qatar for people with two doses of a conditionally approved vaccines and 14 days after the second dose, in which case only the traveller will be considered fully immune.
People, who have obtained two doses of a conditionally approved vaccine followed by one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and after 14 days from the last dose, will be considered fully immune.