Qatar offers visa-free entry to India, 79 other nations amid Gulf crisis

Energy-rich Qatar’s economy took a hit since Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain moved to isolate it

Qatar announced on Wednesday it was scrapping visa requirements for visitors from 80 countries as it weathers a boycott by four Arab states and gears up to host the World Cup in 2022.

Under the new policy announced by Qatar Airways and authorities, citizens of 33 mostly European countries can enter without a visa for 90 days in single or multiple trips during a 180-day period.

Americans, Britons, Canadians and citizens of 44 other countries can enter visa-free for an initial 30 days on single or multiple trips, and can extend that for a further 30 days.

Energy-rich Qatar’s economy has taken a hit since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain moved to isolate it two months ago over allegations it supports extremists.

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The quartet of Arab nations is particularly irked by Qatar’s ties with Iran and its support of Islamist opposition groups. Qatar denies it backs terror groups and says the allegations against Doha are politically motivated.

The four countries cut diplomatic and transport links with Qatar in June, and barred Qatar from using their airspace and shipping lanes.

In a related development, the UAE and Bahrain today sought to clarify a statement made the day before by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which said both countries had agreed to open up some of their airspace, including new “temporary or contingency” routes, for Qatar Airways.

The two, in statements carried on the UAE’s and Bahrain’s state-run news agencies, said that they had not agreed to open up their airspace in full to Qatari flights but to only allow Qatari aircraft to use their airspace located above international waters.

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Loneliness may be a greater public health hazard than obesity: Study

Loneliness and isolation may actually lead to early death, researches say

Loneliness may be a greater public health hazard than obesity, according to a study which found that social isolation may put people at an increased risk of early death.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need – crucial to both well-being and survival,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor at Brigham Young University in the US.

“Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment,” said Holt-Lunstad.

“Yet an increasing portion of the USPopulation now experiences isolation regularly,” she said.

To illustrate the influence of social isolation and loneliness on the risk for premature mortality, Holt-Lunstad presented data from two research reviews.

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The first involved 148 studies, representing more than 300,000 participants, and found that greater social connection is associated with a 50 per cent reduced risk of early death.

The second study, involving 70 studies representing more than 3.4 million individuals from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, examined the role that social isolation, loneliness or living alone might have on mortality.

Researchers found that all three had a significant and equal effect on the risk of premature death, one that was equal to or exceeded the effect of other well-accepted risk factors such as obesity.

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” said Holt-Lunstad.