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Qatar World Cup venue to open with COVID-recovered fans

Al-Rayyan (Qatar) (AFP) – Qatar will inaugurate its latest completed World Cup stadium with a domestic fixture at which half of tickets will be reserved for fans who have recovered from coronavirus, the country’s FA said Monday.

The Al-Rayyan Venue, the third new stadium to be completed ahead of 2022, will host the domestic Emir Cup final on December 18 and will welcome around half of its 40,000 capacity.

“Anyone who enters the stadium must return either a negative Covid-19 test or a positive Covid-19 antibodies test,” Abdul Wahab al-Musleh, Qatar’s deputy chief medical officer, said in a QFA statement.

“About 50 percent of the available seats will be allocated to people who have previously contracted the virus.”

Fans will be required to undergo tests at one of three locations where their ticket application will be linked to their national identity cards and phone number.

Fans will then be eligible for a non-transferable ticket once they receive the required test result. 

Once inside, fans will be required to wear a mask, show their contact tracing app, and stay in their allocated seat.

“This is the first time Qatar has hosted a match on this scale under such exceptional circumstances,” added Musleh.

Qatar has slowly been welcoming fans back to stadiums, permitting attendances of up to 30 percent in the top-flight Qatar Stars League.

The human body produces antibodies when it fights off viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. They are proteins that are programmed to target specific pathogens.

It is thought likely that if re-exposed to the virus, most people’s immune systems will produce new antibodies, as well as immune cells that target and destroy cells that have been infected.

Qatar, which has tested 41 percent of its 2.75 million population, has recorded 140,086 infections since the beginning of the pandemic with the high rate attributed to aggressive testing and unsanitary accommodation for workers.

However only 239 people have died of the virus and the rate of new infections per 100,000 for the past week was 45.6 — well down from the peak.

The Emir Cup final will see favourites Al-Sadd, coached by former Barcelona and Spain player Xavi Hernandez, take on minnows Al-Arabi.

Al-Rayyan, located 24 kilometres (15 miles) west of the capital Doha, will host seven matches during Qatar 2022 up to and including the round of 16 stage.

Its glowing facade will feature patterns suggestive of Qatari themes including the importance of family, the desert, and local flora and fauna.

Qatar has so far inaugurated new-build Al-Janoub and Education City stadiums alongside the refurbished Khalifa ground. 

After Al-Rayyan opens, only Lusail, Al-Bayt, Ras Abu Aboud and Thumama stadiums remain to be opened.

World Cup 2022 chief executive Nasser al-Khater said recently that all of the stadiums should be complete by the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022.

Qatar last week marked 10 years since it was named host of the 2022 tournament.  

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