Qatar is one of the biggest oil sectors in the Middle East. It has also been the site of a diplomatic crisis after its highly-publicized split from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). COVID-19 in Qatar has spawned a decline in oil prices and in addition, the government has been cracking down on the rights of migrant workers by utilizing digital technology to monitor the spread of the disease. Here are seven facts about COVID-19 in Qatar.
7 Facts About COVID-19 in Qatar
- In late March 2020, the government put several square kilometers of industrial zones in Doha, the nation’s capital, on lockdown. The lockdown shut down labor in warehouses, car services and small shops, negatively impacting migrant workers who work in these sectors. In addition, Amnesty International has reported that Qatari authorities are illegally detaining migrant workers and sending them back to their native countries.
- Qatar has increased the number of COVID-19 tests by using a drive-through procedure that The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) developed. While thousands underwent testing and quarantine mid-March in Doha’s Industrial Area, increased testing is now available for volunteers.
- As of May 7, 2020, Qatar recorded 12 deaths, 18,890 infections and 2,286 recoveries in a population of 2.8 million. These infection rates surpass that of many other countries. Many migrant workers and poorer families make up the newer cases. They often live in small dormitories with up to 12 people sharing bunk beds, making social distancing a challenge. However, the death rate remains low despite higher rates of infection. This may be due to a mostly young population and the stringent lockdowns that the government enforced.
- The Gulf economy relies heavily on oil trade and production. Qatar accounts for 12% of the world’s natural gas and petroleum resources. The value of these resources has dropped drastically since the outbreak of the virus. The ruler of Qatar has now postponed up to $8.2 billion on capital expenditure projects.
- A law surrounding domestic work in Qatar stipulates that domestic workers can only take time off if their employers grant it. Domestic workers do not have protection under labor laws like factory workers and other jobs. They cannot intersperse rest breaks into their working hours but must work the same amount of shifts. This furthers the risk of contracting the virus. Domestic workers, primarily women, face especially dire consequences. The families that many of these workers serve sometimes also abuse them, causing rising rates of domestic violence. Domestic workers either risk suffering abuse in these houses or contracting the virus.
- Qatar Charity launched an online fundraiser in partnership with the Qatari youth initiative, Lakm Al-Ajr, which translates to “Pays for Pay.” The youth initiative distributes 800 breakfast meals every day throughout the holy month of Ramadan. As a result, it has been able to feed 4,000 industrial migrant workers in Doha per day.
- The government increased its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in order to combat the spread of the pandemic. The technology helps to monitor the spread by closely tracking people who tested positive for the virus via speed cameras, drones and location-based tracking. This limits more exposure in the general population.
Qatar is one of the Gulf Nations that has split from the GCC, creating political disruption. In addition, its migrant workers are still in need of basic necessities like food and medical supplies. The presence of COVID-19 in Qatar puts even more strain on the country and international partners that rely on oil. Qatar Charity has implemented several programs in partnership with other organizations to fund COVID-19 relief and is taking donations for further medical help and assistance in Qatar.
– Isabel Corp
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