Qatar, Kuwait to Imprison People for Not Wearing Masks

Qatar confirms virus in jail, denies widespread outbreak
KARIM JAAFAR/AFP

In Qatar and Kuwait, not wearing a sanitary mask could land you in prison, according to new mandates issued by the Persian Gulf states to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus, Middle Eastern news site Al-Monitor reported Monday.

The maximum penalty for not wearing a mask in Qatar is three years in prison, according to an announcement broadcast on Qatari-state TV over the weekend. The country’s top fine for failing to wear a mask was set at 200,000 riyals ($55,000). The ordinance is effective now “until further notice.”

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health announced that those who fail to comply with the country’s mask mandate risk a maximum of three months in prison and a fine of 5,000 dinars ($16,200), according to the report.

Qatar’s Cabinet, its chief executive body, orders people to wear masks “upon leaving the house for any reason” except when “alone while driving a vehicle,” the Qatar News Agency reported Thursday, according to the report.

Qatar has one of the world’s highest rates of infection for coronavirus, with 33,969 cases but a relatively low death toll by comparison with just 15 deaths. Of the six Gulf States, Qatar has the second-highest coronavirus infection rate. In Qatar, only about 300,000 people out of the entire population of 2.8 million are Qatari nationals. The majority of people in the country to have contracted coronavirus so far are reportedly migrant workers.

As reported by Al-Monitor, Qatar recorded 1,000 new coronavirus cases each day last week, with 1,153 cases recorded on Friday, according to Dr. Abdullatif al-Khal, co-chair of Qatar’s National Pandemic Preparedness Committee.

“The spike in infections suggests the virus is at the beginning of its peak,” Dr. al-Khal reportedly said, urging Qataris to “stay at home during the remainder of Ramadan,” the Islamic month-long holiday which ends this weekend. Mosques in Qatar have been closed to comply with coronavirus physical distancing measures.

According to the Qatar Tribune, the Qatari government has limited the number of people allowed to travel in private cars and other vehicles starting Tuesday. No more than two people are allowed to travel at a time in a self-driven personal vehicle, but up to three people at a time are allowed in taxis, limousines, and cars driven by a “family driver.”

Starting Tuesday, Qatar will halt all commercial activities and close all shops, according to the report. Essential shops, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, will remain open. The partial shutdown is expected to last until May 30.

With a population of about 30 million people, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of coronavirus cases of all the Persian Gulf states with over 57,345 infections and 320 deaths. Both Kuwait and Qatar share a border with Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar’s neighbor to the southeast, has the second-highest number of coronavirus deaths among the six Persian Gulf states with 224. It has reported more than 24,190 cases.

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