Qatar imposes mandatory masks on pain of prison

Source:AFP Published: 2020/5/18 18:23:41

Doha, Qatar Photo: CNSphoto

Qatar on Sunday began enforcing the world's toughest penalties of up to three years in prison for failing to wear masks in public, in a country with one of the highest coronavirus infection rates.

More than 32,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country - 1.2 percent of the 2.75 million population - although just 15 people have died.

Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican have 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 police erected checkpoints across the capital Doha on Sunday evening to check compliance by motorists.

Most customers who gathered outside money lenders on Banks Street wore masks, while others produced a face covering when asked.

"From today it's very strict," said Majeed, a taxi driver waiting for business in the busy pedestrian area, who wore a black mask.

Heloisa, an expat resident, saw the steep penalties as "a bit of a scare tactic."

Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.

Authorities in Chad have made it an offence to be unmasked in public, on pain of 15 days in prison. In Morocco, similar rules can see violators jailed for three months and fined up to 1,300 dirhams ($130). 

Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan may have increased infections. Neighboring Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al-Fitr holiday later in May to fight the virus.



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