Doha, 29 June 2020 (Qatar Tribune)
By Ashraf Siddiqui
Qatari authorities have taken all necessary steps to handle the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis very responsibly, Ambassador of Belgium to Qatar HE Bart De Groof has said, lauding Qatar’s healthcare system for its professional approach in managing the situation and curbing the spread of the virus.
In an exclusive interview with Qatar Tribune, ambassador Groof said Qatar’s healthcare system has performed remarkably well thanks to the efforts of countless frontline workers. He said, “The prime concern of the authorities is to save lives and contain the spread of COVID-19. As guests in this country, we fully respect
this concern and follow the measures being implemented to manage and eventually overcome the health crisis.”
The envoy said the Belgian community in Qatar is fully cooperating with the efforts of the Qatar government and its agencies. He said the members of
the community are worried about their health and that of their families back home as COVID-19 has hit Belgium very hard. “Ours is a densely populated country with many senior citizens, who have suffered greatly. Belgium has about the same number of COVID-19 cases as Qatar but unfortunately with a high fatality rate
because of the ageing population. That is a concern for many Belgians abroad. Being far away from one’s family in these circumstances is particularly hallenging,” he noted.
“Now that the traditional holiday season is approaching, many people are wondering if they can travel home and under which conditions they will be allowed to travel back to Qatar,” Groof said. “It is important to stress that Qatar, like other countries, is rightfully concerned about new COVID-19 cases entering its territory. We have to be careful in the interest of everybody’s health. Everybody understands the need for testing and quarantine upon arrival. The Qatari authorities are currently issuing the guidelines to organise and regulate the re-entry process for Qatari residence permit holders and we keep track of these guidelines,” the envoy said.
He added, “In Qatar, we did not face an urgent repatriation need as we are very privileged to count on the services of Qatar Airways. I commend Qatar Airways’ role during this crisis time. Qatar Airways has contributed to the uninterrupted supply of food and medical items to the country and helped other nations
in need. It was expanding its operations to include special repatriation flights all over the world.” Belgium worked with Qatar and many Belgian citizens were able to fly home thanks to Qatar Airways, he noted.
He said Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Philippe Goffin called Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs HE Sheikh
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani to thank him for the excellent collaboration.
Talking about the COVID-19 impact on his work routine, the envoy said, “Understandably, official meetings, delegation visits, bilateral commissions and negotiations have largely shifted to online meetings and webinars. The embassies of the EU countries are in constant contact with the Qatari authorities on a wide array of topics, ranging from health issues to COVID-19 impact on our communities.”
On how he spends his free time, ambassador Groof said, “I am lucky enough to have brought an extensive collection of books to Doha and, in my free time, I discover that I still have to read more. We’re also very lucky and privileged to have a house with a garden to walk in when the weather permits. My wife Shemain has discovered a real vocation as a health cook. She keeps us all sound and spends a great deal of time in the kitchen trying out new recipes based on organic and healthy ingredients.”