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Migrant worker camps in Qatar on lockdown as coronavirus cases spike among community

Workers from countries like India, Nepal and Bangladesh make up much of Qatar’s blue-collar labour force and typically live in camps on the edges of Doha.

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Doha: Qatar put some migrant worker camps on the outskirts of the capital under lockdown for two weeks in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus among low-income expatriates.

Lolwah Al Khater, spokeswoman for the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management, said on Tuesday that the measures became necessary after multiple cases of the virus were identified among the community.

Foreigners from places like India, Nepal and Bangladesh make up much of the city’s blue-collar labor force — from security guards to janitors and construction workers — and typically live in camps on the edges of Doha, out of sight of the glittering high-rises along the city’s seaside Corniche. Employers transport workers in buses and vans, and the close-quarters communal living makes personal contact difficult to avoid.

The government’s communications office didn’t respond to questions about the number of workers living in the affected area or where they are being treated.

Qatar has banned inbound flights, and Qataris and residents have been urged to stay at home if they’re able to. Earlier this week, the government barred non-citizens from entering the country for 14 days. Qataris subject to earlier quarantines were housed at an upscale hotel close to the main airport.


Also read: Qatar bans entry of people from India, 13 other countries to prevent coronavirus spread


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The Ministry of Public Health reported a spike in infections on March 11 from 24 reported cases to 262. It tied the increase to a trio of infected workers who shared the same residence, and moved to quarantine hundreds of people. The government soon closed schools, universities, transport and public spaces.

Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers has come under fire as it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The event’s organizing committee has acknowledged 34 deaths among those working on stadiums amid media reports of larger numbers of fatalities. The government has touted improved accommodation for workers and introduced a wage protection system, among other changes to labor law. Groups like Human Rights Watch acknowledged Qatar’s efforts but say improvements have been uneven.

Laborers were seen at work on roads Wednesday. In a statement, a spokesperson for the organizing committee said it was working to ensure the “health and safety of everyone working on FIFA World Cup 2022 projects and the wider communities in Qatar” affected by the virus outbreak.- Bloomberg


Also read: Coronavirus is just the start, get ready for a bigger disruption


 

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