Trim for Eid: Qatar barbers and salons re-open

Doha (AFP) –


Doha residents flocked for haircuts Thursday as hairdressers reopened having closed in March to contain coronavirus in Qatar, a nation beset by one of the world's highest declared per capita infection rates.

Salons were permitted to open as part of an easing of COVID-19 restrictions, meaning people were able to have haircuts in time for the Eid Al-Adha Muslim holiday, which began Thursday.

While barbers and salons were permitted to open from Tuesday, most were intially unable to receive customers as coronavirus tests for all staff and official permits were required first.

On al-Matar al-Kadeem Street in southeast Doha, hundreds of men and boys had their first haircuts in months in one of the two dozen barbershops that line the busy commercial road.

"(Our last haircut) was four months back so I'm happy, especially with it being Eid, it's a tradition to have a haircut and buy new clothes," said Jordanian migrant worker Osama who went with his son to the Arizona Saloon.

Health officials said on Sunday that a declining rate of infection justified an accelerated programme of reopening.

All employees are "tested, nobody is sitting inside waiting, and we're checking" a contact tracing app, said Turkish barber Sacit.

- 'They're relieved' -

"Of course they're happy", Sacit said of his customers. "Their wives have been cutting it, now they're relieved."

Hairdressers are limited to 30 percent capacity, and all staff must wear masks and undergo coronavirus testing, while customers must make appointments.

Dozens of hairdressers and barbers queued with masseurs, personal trainers and beauticians -- professions also subject to mandatory screening -- at a Doha sports club as they waited to be tested for $100 each.

Qatar's Islamic Affairs ministry said on Thursday that the number of mosques permitted to host socially-distanced worship would be expanded to 401 ahead of Friday prayers.

Gyms, which resumed business as part of the latest reopening phase, are allowed to operate at 50 percent of capacity but indoor pools, saunas, steam rooms and jacuzzis will remain closed.

Around four percent of Qatar's 2.75 million population has been infected with the COVID-19 disease, according to official figures, with 171 deaths.

But the average daily number of newly discovered infections for the past seven days was down to 317, from 395 a week earlier.

More than 107,000 of those infected have made a full recovery, according to the official data.

Qatar's high COVID-19 infection rate is attributed to an aggressive testing programme, with over 490,000 administered since the start of the pandemic.