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Coronavirus hits migrant workers in Qatar

DUBAI: Qatar’s old industrial zone has emerged as a hot spot for coronavirus in the state, putting at risk many migrant workers who live and work in the area of car service centres, warehouses and small shops.

The tiny country, where expatriates comprise the majority of the population, has recorded 452 cases of the virus, the highest number among the six Gulf Arab states that have reported a total of more than 1,200.

Qatari authorities on Tuesday announced the closure of several square kilometres of the industrial area in the capital Doha, which also contains labour camps and other housing units.

The energy-producing country relies on about 2 million migrant workers for the bulk of its labour force, mainly from Asian countries like Nepal, India and the Philippines.

“The majority of (coronavirus) cases in Qatar to date have been located in the Industrial Area,” the Government Communication Office (GCO) said in a statement on Thursday in response to a Reuters’ query.

“Every effort is being made to prevent the spread of the disease in Qatar and protect every member of the population. As a result, some areas of Qatar have been cordoned off to contain the virus,” it said, without elaborating.

The GCO did not comment on the total number of people under lockdown in the industrial zone, the total number of migrant workers who have tested positive or the total number under quarantine and in how many locations.

Authorities on March 11 said 238 people under quarantine in a residential compound tested positive for the disease after three residents had earlier been diagnosed. Subsequent announcements have linked most reported cases to migrant workers without mentioning nationalities or specific numbers.

The GCO said authorities were working with employers to ensure payment of salaries and distribution of food, water, masks and hand sanitizer to people in lockdown sites, and people under quarantine were being tested and monitored by medics.

Like other Gulf Arab states, Qatar has taken drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus, including banning non-Qataris from entering and shutting public venues.

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