UK inquest into Qatar World Cup death cites ‘unsafe’ site

In this photo taken during a government organized media tour, laborers work at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, in this May 4, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 28 February 2018

UK inquest into Qatar World Cup death cites ‘unsafe’ site

LONDON: Work practices at a Qatar World Cup stadium construction site where a British worker died last year were “downright dangerous,” a coroner in Britain probing the death said Tuesday.
Zachary Cox, who was born in Johannesburg but later lived in Britain, plummeted 39 meters (128 feet) when a hoist he was using to put in place a suspended walkway broke at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha in January, 2017.
British coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley found the rope-access technician had fallen head first, sustaining brain injuries and a broken neck, after a safety harness had also snapped.
Brighton and Hove Coroner’s Court, in southern England where Cox had lived — heard new working practices, including the use of extra hoists to speed up construction after problems with some of the heavy metal platforms, had preceded the fatal incident.
Hamilton-Deeley called the conditions “inherently unsafe.”
“The site managers at the stadium knew or should have known that they were effectively requiring a group of their workers to rely on potentially lethal equipment,” she said.
“(The new system) was chaotic, unprofessional, unthinking and downright dangerous.”
Relatives of Cox, 40, told the coroner they have been fighting for answers from officials at the stadium’s main contractor, Midmac-Six Construct Joint Venture, and want an independent inquiry and the involvement of Britain’s Foreign Office.
In a statement after the inquest, Cox’s sisters-in-law Ella Joseph and Hazel Mayes demanded “reassurance that those responsible for making the decisions that ultimately led to Zac’s death will be held to account and justice will be served.
An initial investigation into the death, compiled by the contractor and referenced in an annual workers’ welfare report released last June, found concerns over the construction of the high platform from which Cox fell.
The joint venture did not respond to a request for comment from AFP.
Local authorities in Qatar are also conducting their own probe.
Colleague Graham Vance, from South Africa, was initially arrested over Cox’s death and kept in Qatar for 10 months but has since been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Khalifa was the first World Cup stadium to be opened in Qatar, hosting its first major event, the Emir Cup, last May.
It will also be the site of the 2019 world athletics championships.


Panama hospitals on verge of collapse as virus cases surge

Updated 2 min 15 sec ago

Panama hospitals on verge of collapse as virus cases surge

  • With a population of four million, Panama has gone from 200 cases a day to 1,100 over the last few weeks
  • Authorities estimate that of every 100 people infected, 20 end up in hospital

PANAMA CITY: Hospitals in Panama are on the brink of collapse as coronavirus cases spike in the Central American country worst hit by the pandemic, where doctors are already exhausted.
With a population of four million, Panama has gone from 200 cases a day to 1,100 over the last few weeks.
“Our daily number of infected patients has been increasing in a sustained way to the point of passing 1,000 cases,” David Villalobos, head of the intensive care unit at the Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital in Panama City, told AFP.
“There are no hospitals that could sustain such a number,” he said.
The sharp increase has forced authorities to adapt existing hospitals and look for new spaces, like convention centers, to boost a health system with a range of problems including long waiting lists.
“The fear of the collapse of the public system in our country is evident if the number of cases remains the same,” Domingo Moreno, coordinator of a coalition of health care workers’ unions, told AFP.
“In the next two weeks we probably won’t have anywhere to put beds.”
With 42,000 cases and 839 deaths, Panama has the worst official tally of coronavirus infections in the region.

According to official figures, close to 20,000 people are in isolation at home or in hotels. Another 1,000 are receiving hospital treatment, 159 of whom are in intensive care.
Authorities estimate that of every 100 people infected, 20 end up in hospital — meaning that at the current rate, 200 people a day are being admitted to hospital, and 50 to intensive care.
“It’s exhausting, sometimes we have to go back at night for admissions. But here we are,” Giselle Sanchez, a doctor caring for the most serious COVID-19 patients, told AFP.
Doctors and nurses around the country have protested in recent weeks demanding medical supplies and protective equipment.
“There’s fear of infection, of being in a situation that puts your life at risk. This is a war of attrition,” said Moreno.
President Laurentino Cortizo recently pledged to carry out 4,000 tests a day to find and isolate those infected.
But some people, like Silda Idalia Rios, are afraid of taking the test because of rumors circulating about the pandemic.
The virus “has come to attack us,” she told AFP, conceding that “you need to accept that you have to take a test to see if it’s positive.”
Health Minister Francisco Sucre said he was aware of a significant group of people continuing to go out despite knowing they had contracted COVID-19, making it harder to get the outbreak under control.
“We are directly dependent on what the people can do or prevent in the street. The people really need to understand that we’re going to collapse,” said Malena Urrutia, from the COVID-19 coordination team at the Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital.
Cortizo said: “As president I would like to tell you that it’s over, but it isn’t. We still don’t have a vaccine. The battle goes on.”