Expats in Gulf States scared over virus and job losses

Published:  1 May at 6 PM
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Expats living and working in the Gulf States are increasingly fearful of the coronavirus effect on their jobs.

Lockdowns are now the obvious way to lessen or even prevent the spread of the deadly infection, but the unintended result also means many expat workers in the region are stuck in a virus limbo, unable to leave and unwilling to stay. As host countries continue their lockdowns, some Gulf-based employers are withholding salary payments and considering redundancies due to the anticipated effect of the pandemic on their businesses.

For example, Saudi Arabian employers are giving nationals paid quarantine leave whilst expat workers are still being forced to work, whilst Kuwait is mulling shutting down residential areas mostly occupied by foreign labour. The reason is said to be an increase in covid-19 infections originating from these areas. Qatar has confined literally tens of thousands of expat workers to its Industrial Area following a significant number of positive tests for the virus, with government- provided food supplies for those locked down running dangerously short. Some 90 per cent of the emirate’s inhabitants are expatriates.

Expats and citizens in Saudi Arabia have been granted free coronavirus treatment by order of the state’s ruler, with the order including those who’ve overstayed their visas due to lockdowns, but expats in similar situations across the Gulf States aren’t so lucky by far. Many are ineligible for sick pay, are on unpaid leave of absence from their jobs or have self-isolated in order to both protect themselves and slow the spread of the virus, and few could afford the necessary treatments to save their lives should they become infected.
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