Qatar suspends entry of non-Qataris in moves to shield economy

DUBAI (Reuters) - Qatar said on Sunday it would ban non-Qataris from entering the country for two weeks as of Wednesday and announced measures to support the economy including providing 75 billion riyals ($20.5 billion) in financial incentives to the private sector.

The government will also instruct state funds to increase their investment in the local bourse by 10 billion riyals and the central bank will provide additional liquidity to banks and encourage them to provide a six-month grace period on loan payments and private sector obligations.

Other measures announced by government spokeswoman Lulwa Rashed al-Khater in a televised news conference include exempting food and medical goods from customs duties and exempting some sectors from paying utility fees for six months.

Qatar, which has been under a trade and travel boycott led by Saudi Arabia and its allies since mid-2017, has reported 401 cases of coronavirus, mostly among people under quarantine.

The government said it would ban inbound flights, with the exception of cargo and transit flights, starting Wednesday night for 14 days as part of measures to contain the spread of the infection. The entry ban does not apply to Qatari citizens.

Authorities also ordered a ban on all public transportation inside the country starting on Sunday night.

All students at public schools are to start distance learning from March 22 while students at private schools and universities would do so according to their academic calendar.

Reporting by Samar Hassan, Ghaida Ghantous and Alexander Cornwell; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Jan Harvey and Alexander Smith