* All cafes and juice stalls; education services and support centres; workshops and centres concerned with arts, theatrical and entertainment services; wedding and event services and centres; and shoe and watch repair booths will remain closed from Friday
* Other commercial shops to operate between 6am and 7pm only
* Food stores, pharmacies and delivery services, including delivery from restaurants, are excluded from this
* 12 new Covid-19 cases take total positive cases to 549; 2 more persons recover, take total recovery cases to 43
* Zero tolerance for violators of law issued by HH the Amir on prevention of infectious diseases
* On-arrival and visit visas can be extended by a month after expiry date, through MoI website of Metrash2

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has decided to completely close non-essential businesses from Friday, HE the Spokesperson for the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management, Lolwah bint Rashid bin Mohamed AlKhater, announced on Thursday.

As a result, all cafes and juice stalls; education services and support centres; workshops and centres concerned with arts, theatrical and entertainment services; wedding and event services and centres; and shoe and watch repair booths will remain closed from Friday, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reports.

This comes in continuation of the State's efforts to limit gatherings and implement the necessary preventive measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Other commercial shops' working hours will be limited between 6am and 7pm, and will be prohibited from operating beyond those hours, she explained while addressing a press conference of the committee on Thursday.

She noted that the vital sectors identified by the Cabinet, such as food stores, pharmacies and delivery services, including delivery from restaurants, are excluded from this.

With regard to the latest medical developments, HE AlKhater said 12 new Covid-19 cases were recorded on Thursday, including three cases of Qatari citizens coming from Europe.

She said all the cases are subject to quarantine and their conditions are stable.

HE also announced the recovery of two patients from the disease, bringing the total cases of recovery to 43.

According to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), yesterday’s Covid-19 cases took the total number of positive cases to 549 in the country, with a total of 13,681 people being tested so far.

HE AlKhater said the committee understands that the changes in the lives of all people have caused some confusion and anxiety, some fear and anticipation of the future, while stressing at the same time that staying at home and applying prevention measures are the “most valuable services that can be provided to our community and our nation during this crisis”.

She stressed that the more everyone adhered to the instructions, the shorter this period time will be, while cautioning against negligence that can prolong it.

She also affirmed that all entities and institutions of Qatar are being harnessed to ensure the continuation of a decent life for all.

At the press conference, the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management stressed that there would be zero tolerance for violators of the law issued by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani amending some of the provisions of Decree Law No 17 of 1990 on the prevention of infectious diseases.

HE AlKhater thanked the security authorities represented by the Ministry of Interior and Internal Security Force (Lekhwiya), which have spared no effort in implementing the relevant laws and measures.

She praised the efforts of doctors, medical staff and officials of the MoPH, “who are the first line of defence for our society in this crisis, and who work round the clock to ensure the provision of high-quality medical services”, stressing that they are the “soldiers who defend us in this crisis”.

Speaking on the situation of visitors in the country whose visas are nearing completion and cannot return to their country, Director of the Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Interior (MoI), Brigadier Abdullah Khalifa al-Muftah, said it has been decided to extend on-arrival and visit visas for a month after the end of the legal period specified for each, QNA reported.

The extension can be done electronically through the MoI's website or Metrash2 mobile application without the need to visit the General Directorate of Passports or its service departments.

Regarding gatherings in private places, Brigadier al-Muftah explained that police patrols are deployed throughout the country to monitor the implementation of the decision to prevent gatherings in public areas, on beaches, in prayer halls, mosques and other public places, as well as social events, weddings and condolence meetings. Such an incident will be recorded and the violators transferred to the Public Prosecution. He called on citizens and residents to abide by this decision to preserve their health and that of others.

Further, he stressed that any violator of the quarantine requirements is referred to the Health Prosecution, which has been established by a decision of HE the Attorney-General (No 46 of 2020), which is concerned with investigating all health-related crimes.

Meanwhile, Assistant Undersecretary for Trade Affairs at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) Saleh al-Khulaifi reviewed the mechanisms for applying the decision to close some of the stores and the sectors covered by it. He noted that the decision aims to curb the spread of the disease, especially as most of the businesses that are being closed are not vital and involve direct contact between the customer and employee.

He added that the working hours of stores, which are not mentioned on the list of businesses that will be closed, are from 6am until 7pm. These exclude vital sectors such as infrastructure, electricity, water and communications services. Logistics delivery services for hypermarkets and pharmacies or delivery services from restaurants will also operate as usual.

Al-Khulaifi noted that the MoCI has set strict requirements for food delivery companies. He said the ministry's inspectors are carrying out periodic campaigns at businesses to ensure their commitment to these conditions.

The official explained that there is co-ordination with the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs to reduce the number of service centres and educate citizens on using online services. He noted that the centres that are functioning follow preventive measures such as maintaining adequate distance between clients and employees.

Al-Khulaifi added that the ministry halso issued regulatory decisions based on the Consumer Protection Law regulating shopping in commercial stores where a safe distance of 1.5m should be maintained between customers and employees, and organising customer entry and exit according to the capacity of each store to avoid crowding. He praised the role of the private sector, which was keen on putting up awareness posters.

Regarding the closure of money exchange houses, al-Khulaifi said these agencies are crowded this time every month, noting that the relevant authorities have co-ordinated with each other to activate online transfers. Thanks to this, people will not have to go these offices and expose themselves to any health risk.

He stressed that the local transfer fees for online services have been cancelled, which encourages people to use such methods for transfers. The State has also taken all measures to facilitate transfers abroad, especially in these circumstances, he added.