Qatar reimposes strict lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge

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Qatar announced the reimposition of strict lockdown measures on Wednesday, banning most indoor activities except retail and work in an effort to contain surging coronavirus cases.

Restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, beauty salons, museums, libraries and cinemas will be forced to close from Friday, according to minutes of a cabinet meeting published by official media.

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“We are still in the middle of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have not reached the peak of infections yet,” Abdullatif al-Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19, said during a speech on state television.

Restaurants can still offer deliveries, while mosques will remain open at set times for five-times daily worship, but authorities ordered additional prayers for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan be conducted at home.

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Private and public sector workplaces will be limited to 50 percent of capacity and home visits between members of different households remain illegal, according to the minutes published by the official Qatar News Agency.

“Most of the recent cases are due to social visits,” Khal added, without specifying when measures would be lifted.

While the country’s death toll per capita is low, nine percent of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic were during the past week, with authorities blaming the more potent British strain.

Wednesday was the deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic in Qatar, with eight deaths reported, according to the latest data.

A strict summer lockdown saw new daily cases plummet from 2,355 at the end of May to 235 by July 31.

Over 26,000 vaccine jabs were administered on Wednesday, bringing the total to 987,673 doses, according to official data.

Qatar reported 940 new infections on Wednesday as well as eight deaths, bringing the total Covid-19 death toll in the country to 320.

Before Wednesday’s announcement, offices, shops, bars and restaurants were all open, with capacity limits.

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