Qatar Establishes First Travel Corridor With Turkey

Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has announced the establishment of a travel corridor from Turkey. Four testing centers in Turkey have been approved for COVID testing, allowing Qatari nationals to circumvent the mandatory two-week quarantine on arrival in Doha. The route only works one way, however, and non-citizens will still not be allowed to enter.

The new regulations will allow travelers to bypass quarantine requirements. Photo: Qatar Airways

Travel corridor established

Although Qatar Airways never stopped flying, its home nation implemented a lockdown policy in light of the pandemic. Flights by foreign airlines were banned, and everything apart from essential services shut down. Now, as Qatar pushes through its four-phase lifting of the lockdown, there’s another shred of hope for Qatari citizens stranded abroad.

To date, any citizens returning to Qatar have had to undergo a two-week quarantine in a hotel, at their own expense. Now, those coming from Turkey at least have an alternative.

Today, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has announced that four centers have been approved in Turkey for Qatari citizens to be tested for COVID-19. Citizens wishing to travel to Qatar from Turkey will be allowed passage as long as they are able to present a negative test result.

Specifically, the four hospitals that are authorized to undertake COVID tests for Qatari citizens are Ankara Sehir hospital, Yesilkoy Murat Dilmener Emergency Hospital, Basaksehir Cam ve Sakura Sehir hospital and Kartal Dr. Litfi Kirdar hospital. Tests must be taken no longer than 48 hours prior to travel, with negative results giving the citizens a ‘COVID-free’ certificate to allow them to travel without quarantine.

One-way street

Both countries have reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding to allow this to take place. Qatar’s MOPH is seeking reliable medical centers for COVID-19 tests in other countries too, so this could be the first of many bubbles for Qatari citizens.

777x vs A350
Only citizens of the State will be allowed to enter. Qatar Airways

Although, it’s not quite a bubble, as this travel corridor only runs one way. Travelers from Turkey who are not Qatari nationals are still not allowed to enter the State. From August, both nationals and those with permanent resident status will be allowed to enter without quarantine on the presentation of COVID negative test results.

Lockdown is easing

Qatar has been the second-worst affected country in the Gulf, with more than 100,000 cases recorded since the start of the outbreak, behind the much largest Saudi Arabia.

In terms of the rate of infection per head of population, Qatar’s is one of the highest in the world. In the past 24 hours alone, 546 new cases have been registered alongside five new deaths.

The state did not impose curfews but did close non-essential services. The four-phase lifting of restrictions reached part two on July 1st, which sees the opening of restaurants, beaches and parks.

Qatar Airways PPE
Qatar Airways has been steadily ramping up operations. Photo: Qatar Airways

Good news for Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has been one of the most active airlines during the pandemic. While many airlines grounded their entire fleets, Qatar kept flying to around 30 destinations even during its lowest point. As a result, it declared itself the world’s largest carrier at the start of June.

Just last week, Qatar laid on an additional three routes to the US, and 11 new destinations in total, in a move it dubbed “take-off Wednesday”. Indeed, the carrier had begun flying again to Turkey from mid-June, even though nonresidents are not allowed to enter the country.

The lifting of the quarantine requirement for arrivals from Turkey will make transit between the two countries much easier. Turkey is an incredibly important political and strategic partner for the State of Qatar, and Qatar Airways will be keen to get traffic flowing between the two countries again.