Qatar confirms first coronavirus death among World Cup 2022 workers

Infections among tournament employees have exceeded 1,000
Workers at Al Bayt Stadium, built for the upcoming FIFA World Cup football championship in 2022, during a tour of Al Khor Stadium, north of Doha, Qatar

AFP/ GIUSEPPE CACACE  -   Workers at Al Bayt Stadium, built for the upcoming FIFA World Cup football championship in 2022, during a tour of Al Khor Stadium, north of Doha, Qatar

The organizers of the 2020 World Cup, to be held in Qatar, have reported the first death from coronavirus among the staff of workers who are building the facilities. In addition, COVID-19 infections have reached a new high among employees with 1,102 confirmed cases, of which 121 are active infections

According to the local newspaper Doha News, the deceased is an engineer of about 50 years old who had no previous pathologies. The organizing committee later confirmed the news: "Unfortunately, on June 11, 2020, a 51-year-old specialist engineer employed by the contractor Conspel died tragically after contracting COVID-19," they said in a statement. "He had worked on Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy projects since 2019 and had no underlying health problems. We send our sincere condolences to his family and friends," the statement said. His nationality is not known at this time.

On 15 April, Qatar reported the first cases of coronavirus among the 2022 FIFA World Cup workers. There were only five cases in three stadium projects. Since then, the cases have risen to over a thousand, despite the measures taken by Doha to curb the spread of the disease, such as granting leave to high-risk workers, but keeping them on full pay; carrying out temperature checks twice a day or imposing social distancing rules in canteens and staff transport. 

Trabajadores
AFP/ GIUSEPPE CACACE - Construction workers stand by the ventilation shafts on the pitch of Qatar's new al-Bayt Stadium in the capital Doha, which will host matches in the 2022 FIFA World Cup

However, it should be remembered at this point that the construction of the tournament's infrastructure continued throughout the coronavirus crisis, even at its peak in April and May, and even when non-essential economic activity was halted by the authorities in order to bend the curve. Retail shops, mosques, parks and restaurants had closed while work continued on the World Cup, which could have led to a massive increase in the number of infections in these two months. 

In addition, as revealed by Al-Ain media at the beginning of the pandemic, hundreds of workers have been confined within industrial compounds, in a kind of overcrowded camps. Many of them have been forced to sign an unpaid permit, so that the state only covers their accommodation and food. However, they are in a situation that leaves much to be desired. Living conditions there are far from decent. Sometimes eight or ten workers live in one room without electricity and, more seriously, without access to running water. The overcrowding of workers in the camps is therefore also an environment that is frankly conducive to the spread of the pathogen.

The global pandemic aggravates the situation of a workforce that was already in a state of flagrant unprotectedness, especially in the case of foreign workers. According to data from a report to which the British newspaper The Guardian had access, up to the middle of March, 34 workers had died on construction sites for the World Cup. Foreigners represent 90% of Qatar's total population of 2.78 million.