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Qatar seeking virus jabs for all World Cup visitors

Doha (AFP) – Qatar is in talks with coronavirus vaccine makers to ensure all fans attending the 2022 World Cup in the country have been vaccinated, the foreign minister said Friday.

The Gulf nation is facing a resurgence of virus cases and deaths despite progress in its mass vaccination programme, forcing authorities to impose a nationwide lockdown.

“We have been negotiating and talking to the vaccination providers on how we can make sure that everyone attending the World Cup is vaccinated,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said. 

“Right now there are programs under development to provide vaccination to all the attendees of the World Cup,” he added during the Raisina Dialogue, a virtual event hosted by the Observer Research Foundation.

“We will be able, hopefully, to host a COVID-free event. We also hope that globally the pandemic will start to go down and disappear.” 

Globally no one vaccine certification system has yet been universally accepted or recognised, though the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass has gained popularity amongst Gulf airlines including Qatar Airways.

As of Friday, 194,930 of Qatar’s 2.75 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, with 21,965 currently active cases — almost one percent of the population.

Over 26,000 vaccine jabs were administered on Friday, bringing the total to 1,209,648 doses, according to official data.

One in five of the 367 deaths Qatar has suffered since the start of the pandemic has been reported this month with officials blaming the more virulent British variant. 

Last week Qatar announced the reimposition of strict lockdown measures, banning most indoor activities except retail and work in an effort to contain the virus.

Qatar has defied soaring coronavirus case numbers to stage several high profile global sporting events in recent months, serving as a test bed for different restrictions but also suffering high-profile infection cases.

The wealthy Gulf nation has bucked the trend of more established sporting nations which have cancelled or postponed a slew of leading events, instead hosting soccer, tennis, motorcycling, judo and beach volleyball since January.

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino has previously said that measures to contain the coronavirus will need to be taken during the 2022 tournament but did not given details.

“Maybe some precautionary measures have to be taken,” he told AFP during the FIFA Club World Cup in Doha in February.

As well as saying unspecified distancing measures could still be in place for next year’s World Cup, Infantino suggested FIFA could “concretely” help travelling fans from countries with patchy vaccine rollouts.

“We need to see how the situation looks by then. It’s very difficult to foresee now.

“It will take a little bit of time, and we have two years of time to come back to some sort of normality.”

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