Health Desk- May 19, 2020: Qatar started enforcing the world’s toughest penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for failing to wear masks in public, as it battles one of the world’s highest coronavirus infection rates.
Qatar authorities had been enforcing this tough punishment since Sunday as coronavirus transmission was soaring in this gulf country.
More than 30,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country - 1.1 per cent of the 2.75 million population - although just 15 people have died.
Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican had higher per capita infection rates, according to the European Centre 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 several expats told AFP that police were stopping cars at checkpoints to warn them of the new rules before they came into force.
Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.
Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during Ramadan may have increased infections.
Abdul Latif 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.