Increase of Coronavirus Cases Alarming, Virus Threatens 475,000 Low-Wage Foreign Workers

2020-04-11 - 8:16 p

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): On April 7, the Health Ministry recorded 41 new Coronavirus cases in the residence of expatriates in Al-Hid.

On Tuesday night, April 7, Alba discovered 3 new Coronavirus cases among contractors in the company.

On Monday, April 6, the Health Ministry announced 31 Coronavirus cases among expatriates in Salmabad.

On Thursday, April 2, the Health Ministry recorded 66 Coronavirus cases among expatriates in Salmabad.

On Tuesday, March 31, the Health Ministry announced 47 Coronavirus cases among expatriates that were quarantined because they were in contact with a person who tested positive.

The aforementioned are cases that emerged among expatriates, who amount to hundreds of thousands in Bahrain. All of the cases were announced in the first week of April only. The foreign workforce reached 594,944 workers by the end of the second quarter of 2019, according to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority. Economists say 80% of them are low-income workers, which means that Bahrain has more than 475,000 low-income workers, nearly 100,000 of whom are laborers without contracts.

This huge and frightening number of no-contract low-wage workers in a small country like Bahrain is a time bomb amid a situation that is particularly threatened by the epidemic. They are the weakest part in society, as they are overcrowded in unhealthy environments and in residences that lack the basic levels of cleanliness or privacy. Some of them even take shifts to sleep on the same bed. This makes it impossible to practice social distancing between them, and foreshadows a potential catastrophe that threatens this vulnerable and marginalized group. The problem doesn't stop at this group only, but extends to the whole society.

At a press conference held on Tuesday evening, Manaf Al-Qahtani, Member of the National Taskforce for Combating Coronavirus, tried to reduce the concern over this increase by saying: "The high number of cases of migrant workers is concentrated in specific places of residence of these workers," and explained that "awareness campaigns have been intensified for them in coordination with all concerned authorities and a number of additional precautionary steps are being taken to preserve their health."

However, the number of cases announced in just one week is a siren that cannot be mitigated or falsified. These workers are not isolated from society, and are not confined to their homes, as Al-Qahtani said, as they go out for their daily work, get in contact with each other and other in factories, institutions, construction sites and various businesses, let alone the no-contract workers, who go out freely to make a living out of their daily work and make enough money, which they have to pay to the government in return for a flexible work permit or to the guarantor who had issued them permits to come.

Will the state be able to contain more than 475,000 expatriates threatened by the rapid spread of the epidemic among them? Will we witness a dramatic increase in infected cases in the coming period? Will this be at the expense of the state's efforts to protect Bahrainis and those stranded abroad who are still facing the threat of the epidemic and death outside their country?


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