Coronavirus vaccinations will not be mandatory for the million-plus fans going to the World Cup in Qatar this year, the Gulf state said Thursday.
But players and match officials may be forced into a secure “bio-bubble” if Covid-19 cases take off again, with the threat of expulsion from the tournament for those who breach the secure environment, the health ministry said.
The 29-day tournament will be the first major global sporting event with fans since the eruption in December 2019 of the Covid pandemic, which has since killed more than six million people.
Qatari organisers, who have predicted that more than one million people will pack Doha for the matches, and football’s governing body, FIFA, have said they want the event to be a sign the world is getting over the devastating pandemic.
But Qatar’s health ministry warned in its World Cup guidelines that special measures would be ordered “in the event of a worsening pandemic situation in the country”, such as the emergence of a threatening new variant.
With Covid-19 currently considered under control, “there will be no vaccination requirement for participants and visiting spectators,” the ministry said.
All visitors aged over six will have to produce negative Covid-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament that starts on November 20.
Fans will have to wear masks in public transport but authorities are only recommending the use of masks at the eight stadiums in the Doha region where matches will be played.
Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 in Qatar will have to isolate for five days, the guidelines added.