Qatar says it’s working to protect labourers from coronavirus

BERLIN (AP) — The Qatari government said on Tuesday it has implemented widespread measures to protect immigrant workers from the coronavirus, after a German documentary highlighted that ongoing construction of World Cup infrastructure raised the risk of infections.

The government said in a statement to The Associated Press that it is providing free healthcare and a salary-guarantee for those workers affected by the virus, and is bringing a daily shipment of food and protective equipment into the industrial area where immigrant labourers reside.

The response came after a German documentary reported on severe food shortages for the workers and an increased risk of infection due to cramped conditions inside a quarantined part of the Industrial Area district outside Doha.

Retail shops and bank branches in shopping malls are closed as Qatar bids to contain the virus. The country has reported over 1,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with some 130 recoveries and four deaths.

But work on construction sites continues as Qatar gets ready to host the World Cup in 2022. Migrant workers are driving the effort.

Qatar relies on foreign labourers to build its mega projects and highways. They take the jobs to earn incomes they never could back home, though abuse and maltreatment have been reported for years. Many live in cramped, dormitory-style housing.

The Qatari government told the AP on Tuesday that, “1,000 trucks loaded with goods enter the Industrial Area daily” and that food, water, masks, gloves and hand sanitisers are being delivered to workers.

An outbreak of COVID-19 infections led the state to close off the zone between Street No 1 and Street No 32 of the Industrial Area in a bid to contain the virus last month.