DOHA/DUBAI: Qatar’s main healthcare provider has suspended leave for all medical and administrative staff dealing with COVID-19, as infections surge across the Gulf. The Gulf Cooperation Council states have been recording their highest numbers of new cases in months.
“Due to the recent increase in the number of people infected with COVID-19 in Qatar ... the difficult decision has been made to put on hold all approved and future employees’ leave requests for clinical and admin staff who are working in COVID-19 activities,” the Hamad Medical Corporation said in an internal memo circulated on Monday.
“This decision comes into immediate effect and until further notice.” It said staff would be compensated for working overtime, as the country gears up to host the 2022 World Cup.
Since the pandemic began, Qatar has recorded more than 248,000 infections, including 616 deaths. Monday’s tally of 343 infections was the highest since May.
Despite having the world’s highest vaccination rate, the UAE has recorded the largest number of infections among Gulf countries at more than 753,000. On Monday, it recorded 1,732 infections, the highest number in six months.
The multibillion-dollar world’s fair in Dubai has warned that some venues on site may shut down as coronavirus cases rapidly rise in the UAE.
Dubai’s Expo 2020 said that virus outbreaks among staff may force some parts of the fair to “close temporarily for deep cleaning and sanitization.”
The UAE’s daily virus caseload has skyrocketed by a multiple of 37 in just the last three weeks after the arrival of the omicron variant.
Expo tries to enforce various virus precautions, with face masks mandatory on the fairgrounds and a vaccination certificate or recent negative virus test needed for entry. But the highly transmissible omicron variant, which is thought to evade immunity from vaccination, poses a new test.
There have been no visible social distancing requirements at Expo’s massive concerts in recent weeks where revelers have rammed up against each other, waving their hands to the music.
With Dubai’s peak winter tourism season in full swing, the world’s fair has vaulted into the spotlight. Millions of tourists from around the world are flocking to the sprawling site packed with scores of national pavilions, restaurants, shops and performance stages.
Christmas parades drew crowds last week and Expo is now gearing up for big concerts to attract party-goers on New Year’s Eve.