Qatar admitted on Tuesday that there were 12 cases of COVID-19 at a jail following a warning by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that prisoners could be at risk of contracting the disease.
HRW had said that six non-Qatari detainees “described a deterioration in prison conditions” at Doha’s Central Prison.
“They said that the prison authorities also further restricted prisoners’ limited access to basic medical care,” it added describing the situation as “an apparent outbreak.”
Michael Page, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, called for the release of “vulnerable prisoners such as older people and those held for low level or nonviolent offenses.”
Qatar, where expatriates make up the majority of the population, has like other Gulf states seen the virus spread among low-wage foreign workers living in cramped quarters.
Almost 34,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country — 1.2 percent of the 2.75 million population — although just 15 people have died.
Masks have been mandatory in public places in Qatar since Sunday in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
Violators of the new rules will face up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000, the world’s toughest penalties for failing to wear a face covering.
Anyone leaving their home will also be required to install a contact tracing app on their phones from Friday.