Qatar World Cup faces fresh scrutiny over virus ‘cover-up’

People queue for services in Doha in May as the country was hit by high COVID-19 rates. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 October 2020

Qatar World Cup faces fresh scrutiny over virus ‘cover-up’

  • Report: Doha has been ‘misreporting COVID-19 deaths, misleading global health care community’
  • Qatar suffered world’s highest coronavirus infection rate per head of population

LONDON: A report alleging that Qatar is covering up the true scale of its battle with coronavirus has blown open the debate surrounding the Gulf country’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Demands to move the tournament from Qatar have been reignited following the release of the 10-page document, which was authored by London-based management consultancy Cornerstone Global Associates.

“By the middle of August 2020, Qatar suffered the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate per head of population,” the report said.

“An internal memo conducted by a leading construction company in Qatar working on FIFA projects raised concerns that many of its laborers who were infected had died, but were not reported as COVID-19 deaths,” it added.

“The concerns are in line with questions about the clear discrepancy between the number of infections and the mortality rate.

“The internal memo referred to the repatriation of the bodies of the deceased to their native Nepal and India. This practice goes against the recommendation by health authorities around the world. It also suggests that the Qatari authorities have been misreporting COVID-19 deaths, thereby misleading the global health care community.”

Cornerstone said: “Qatar claims only 201 deaths from COVID-19, suggesting a mortality rate of 0.17 percent.” The firm’s health experts said such a rate “seems grossly underestimated.”

Cornerstone, which has provided consultancy services to the World Health Organization and the UK’s National Health Service, has monitored the development of the Qatar-hosted World Cup since it was awarded to the country in 2010.

The report will add to Qatar’s woes over its hosting of the tournament in two years’ time. Doha previously faced allegations that it had bribed FIFA officials to secure the event.

In April 2020, the US Department of Justice issued an indictment alleging that three South American members of FIFA’s 2010 executive committee accepted bribes to vote for Qatar to host the event.

Qatar’s exploitation of foreign workers is also featured in the new report. The country recently built new hospitals, but laborers from the Indian subcontinent are forbidden from using their facilities despite the threat of coronavirus.

A 2019 Amnesty International report also exposed the inhumane conditions that thousands of workers face in the country.

“Many migrant workers face low pay, harsh working conditions and restrictions on their movement,” Amnesty said.

“Qatar has promised to improve workers’ access to justice, but this promise has not yet been matched by reality. Until this is fixed, hundreds of workers will continue to leave Qatar penniless and without justice.”


Iran to give a ‘calculated’ response to nuclear scientist killing, says official

In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Marnell Maglasang, from La Puente, Calif., directs an F/A-18E Super Hornet on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Arabian Sea, Friday Nov. 27, 2020. (AP)
Updated 1 min 49 sec ago

Iran to give a ‘calculated’ response to nuclear scientist killing, says official

  • Iranian hard-line media called on Sunday for a tough revenge

DUBAI: Iran will give a “calculated and decisive” response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist, said a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, while a hard-line newspaper suggested Tehran’s revenge should include striking the Israeli city of Haifa.
“Undoubtedly, Iran will give a calculated and decisive answer to the criminals who took Martyr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh from the Iranian nation,” Kamal Kharrazi, who is also head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said in a statement.
Fakhrizadeh, long suspected by Western and Israeli government of masterminding a secret nuclear weapons program, was ambushed on a highway near Tehran on Friday and gunned down in his car.
Iran’s clerical and military rulers have blamed the Islamic Republic’s longtime enemy, Israel, for the killing. Iran has in the past accused Israel of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists since 2010.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has declined to comment on the killing. An Israeli Cabinet minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, said on Saturday he did not know who carried it out.
Iranian hard-line media called on Sunday for a tough revenge. The hard-line Kayhan daily, whose editor in chief is appointed by Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for an attack on the Israeli port city of Haifa, if an Israeli role in Fakhrizadeh’s killing is proven.

HIGHLIGHT

Iranian hard-line media called on Sunday for a tough revenge.

“The attack should be carried out in such a way that in addition to destroying the facilities, it should also cause heavy human casualties,” wrote Saadollah Zarei in an opinion piece.
However, Iran’s rulers are aware of daunting military and political difficulties of attacking Israel. Such an attack would also complicate any effort by US President-elect Joe Biden to revive detente with Tehran after he takes office on Jan. 20.
Tensions have been high between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when President Donald Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers and reimposed sanctions that have hit Iran’s economy hard. In retaliation, Tehran has gradually breached the deal’s curbs on its nuclear program.
Biden has said he will return the US to the deal if Iran resumes compliance. Iran has always denied pursuing nuclear weapons.