Wear a mask or face jail in Qatar

Workers wearing masks walk on a street in Doha, on May 17, 2020, as the country begins enforcing the world's toughest penalties for failing to wear masks in public, as it battles one of the world's highest coronavirus infection rates. (AFP)
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Updated 17 May 2020

Wear a mask or face jail in Qatar

  • Violators of Qatar’s new rules will face up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000
  • More than 32,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the country

DOHA: Qatar on Sunday began enforcing the world’s toughest penalties of up to three years’ in prison for failing to wear masks in public, in a country with one of the highest coronavirus infection rates.
More than 32,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny country — 1.2 percent of the 2.75 million population — although just 15 people have died.
Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican have had higher per-capita infection rates, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Violators of Qatar’s new rules will face up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000.
Drivers alone in their vehicles are exempt from the requirement, but police erected checkpoints across the capital Doha on Sunday evening to check compliance by motorists.
Most customers gathered outside money lenders on Banks Street wore masks, while others produced a face covering when asked.
“From today it’s very strict,” said Majeed, a taxi driver waiting for business in the busy pedestrian area, who wore a black mask.
Heloisa, an expat resident, saw the steep penalties as “a bit of a scare tactic.”
Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.
Authorities in Chad have made it an offense to be unmasked in public, on pain of 15 days in prison. In Morocco, similar rules can see violators jailed for three months and fined up to 1,300 dirhams ($130).
Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan may have increased infections.
Abdullatif Al-Khal, co-chair of Qatar’s National Pandemic Preparedness Committee, said Thursday that there was “a huge risk in gatherings of families” for Ramadan meals.
“(They) led to a significant increase in the number of infections among Qataris,” he said.
Mosques, along with schools, malls, and restaurants remain closed in Qatar to prevent the disease’s spread.
But construction sites remain open as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, although foremen and government inspectors are attempting to enforce social distancing rules.
Officials have said workers at three stadiums have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus. Masks have been compulsory for construction workers since April 26.
A 12-strong team of masked laborers kept their distance from one another as they worked under baking sun on a road project in Doha’s blue-collar Msheireb district on Sunday.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers were quarantined in Doha’s gritty Industrial Area after a number of infections were confirmed there in mid-March, but authorities have begun to ease restrictions.
Khal said that most new cases were among migrant workers, although there has been a jump in infections among Qataris. He said the country had not yet reached the peak of its contagion.
Rights groups have warned that laborers’ cramped living conditions, communal food preparation areas and shared bathrooms could undermine social distancing efforts and speed up the spread of the virus.


Israeli cabinet tightens coronavirus lockdown as infections climb

Updated 24 September 2020

Israeli cabinet tightens coronavirus lockdown as infections climb

  • Since the outbreak began, 1,316 people have died in Israel and some 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported
  • The current second wave of infections followed an easing in May of a lockdown imposed in March

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet decided on Thursday to tighten Israel's coronavirus lockdown after he voiced alarm that a surge in infections was pushing the nation to "the edge of the abyss".
Israel went back into lockdown, its second during the pandemic, on Sept. 18. But over the past week, the number of daily new cases has reached nearly 7,000 among a population of 9 million, severely straining the resources of some hospitals.
"We reached a decision to pull the handbrake," Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said on Israel Radio about the cabinet decision, without giving precise details of the restrictions.
Israel Radio and several Israeli news sites said the revised edicts, due to take effect on Friday pending parliamentary ratification, will allow fewer businesses to operate, and only in "essential" sectors such as finance, energy, health, technology, agriculture and food sales and production.
The current 1,000-metre (0.6-mile)- limit on travel from home, except for activities such as grocery and medicine shopping and commuting to work, will now also apply to attendance at street protests, the news reports said.
The revised edict was likely to put a damper on demonstrations outside Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence, where protesters, many of them from outside the city, have been calling for his resignation over alleged corruption.
He has denied charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a trial that resumes in January, and rejected allegations from protest activists that a tougher lockdown was essentially aimed at quashing the demonstrations against him.
"In the past two days, we heard from the experts that if we don't take immediate and difficult steps, we will reach the edge of the abyss," Netanyahu said in public remarks to the cabinet, which met for about eight hours.
Schools will remain closed, but the cabinet decided against shuttering synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, next week, media reported. The number of worshippers, however, will be limited.
Infection rates in close-quarter ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods and towns in Israel have been high, but religious parties in the coalition government had opposed shuttering synagogues.
Since the outbreak began, 1,316 people have died in Israel and some 200,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported.
The current second wave of infections followed an easing in May of a lockdown imposed in March.