AP Source: FIFA talks with Qatar on easing vaccine mandate for World Cup

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FIFA is in talks with Qatari authorities about scrapping the mandatory vaccination requirements for next year’s World Cup.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani announced in June that it would require any fans wanting entry into next year’s tournament to be fully inoculated against the coronavirus, but has said nothing about the policy for players yet.

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FIFA and Qatari officials are discussing the possibility that fans, players and officials will be able to provide proof of having recovered from COVID-19 or produce negative tests, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing discussions.

Qatar World Cup organizers and the Qatari government did not respond to a request for comment.

The first indication of a relaxation of Qatar’s vaccine requirements could come when FIFA releases the tournament regulations in the coming weeks for the Arab Cup. The 16-team tournament from Nov. 30 to Dec. 18 is being used as a test event for World Cup venues.

“Qatar, as the host country, will provide the safeguards required to protect the health and safety of all involved in the competition,” FIFA said in a statement. “All attendees must follow the travel advice from the Qatari authorities and the latest guidance from the Ministry of Public Health. Full information on COVID-19 safety measures will be communicated to all client groups as we approach the competition.”

For the first time on Sunday, FIFA offered direct encouragement for footballers to get vaccinated.

“We encourage COVID-19 vaccinations,” FIFA said, “and endorse the World Health Organization’s position: Safe, fair, and equitable access is critical in all countries. Players should not receive priority access to vaccines.”

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