INSIGHTS

Measures Introduced to Contain COVID-19

April 30, 2020

The Qatari government several directives aimed at containing the COVID-19 outbreak in the State. Below are some of the most significant directives.

• Wearing Masks Mandatory
Starting Sunday, April 26 all employees working in the service sector and construction industry are required to wear masks, Furthermore, shoppers will not be permitted to enter supermarkets without masks. Employees in the public and private sectors whose work requires providing services to the public, and visitors to such locations, are also required to wear masks. Failure to comply could result in imprisonment for up to 3 years and/or a fine of QR 200,000.

• Foreign Visitors to Remain in Qatar
The Ministry of Interior has announced that in accordance with Law No. 21 of 2015, visitors arriving in the country, and those in the country, under current and prior visas will be permitted to remain in Qatar due to their inability to return to their home countries as a result of the airports closures around the world.
• Precautionary Measures’ Period Extended
On April 15, 2020, the Council of Ministers decided to extend for a further two week period the following precautionary measures:
1. Reducing the number of employees working in government ministries and agencies;
2. Reducing the number of employees working in private sector companies;
3. Limiting working hours for employees in the public and private sector to six hours per day, starting from 7am until 1pm;
4. Requiring all employee meetings for public and private sector entities to be held remotely using electronic means;
5. Suspending housekeeping services provided by cleaning and hospitality companies;
6. Reducing the number of passengers on buses to half capacity;
7. Intensifying inspection procedures on food outlets and restaurants.

The Council also confirmed that the extension applied to previously issued exemptions to the precautionary measures as well.

• Temporary Closure of Stores and Offices on Fridays and Saturdays
On April 8, 2020, the Council of Ministers a decision that no commercial activities in stores and offices will be permitted on Friday and Saturday, except for the following businesses:
1. Food and supply outlets (hypermarket, supermarket, and groceries)
2. Vegetable sales outlets
3. Restaurants (delivery only).
4. Bakeries.
5. Pharmacies.
6. Telecommunications companies (located in the hypermarket).
7. Home maintenance companies (electricity, plumbing, and electronics).
8. Petroleum stations.
9. Factories.
10. Clinics (pursuant to the decision of the Ministry of Public Health).
11. Contracting companies operating in the state’s projects.
12. Companies operating in the hotel sector.
13. Logistic services companies, freight companies, companies operating in ports and airports, and customs services.

• Court Hearings Suspended
The Supreme Judiciary Council has announced that it is extending its suspension of the hearings of the Court of Appeal, the Court of First Instance, Labour Dispute Resolution Committees and the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee.
Judges are looking into urgent matters and rescheduling new dates for the delayed hearings. The Court of Cassation hearings remain ongoing.
During the suspension period, the Supreme Judiciary Council is providing an online web portal and a hotline number for each court to entertain inquiries.

• Introduction of Remote Trials
The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) together with the Ministry of Interior (MOI) recently introduced a remote trial service with its pilot programme being tested in the penal circuit of the Court of First Instance. The initiative makes use of video conferencing technology to enable judges and prosecutors to carry out their tasks remotely.
Judges will be able to conduct pre-trial hearings, including hearing the statements of the accused from the police station, verifying his/her identity, and then issuing a decision remotely. The counsel for the accused may also join the proceedings.

• Working Remotely
Starting from April 2, 2020, the government has directed that 80% of the private sector employees to work remotely. Other essential personnel are required to work reduced hours. In addition, all home cleaning services are to stop and the number of workers transported on buses has been reduced to half capacity to ensure social distancing.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurant deliveries are excluded from the above restrictions.

Further, the personnel reductions in ministries have been extended indefinitely. Meetings must be held remotely using modern technology. If necessary physical meetings may be attended by no more than 5 persons. The following groups of people are excluded from the decision:
1. The military
2. Security guards
3. Employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic missions
4. Workers in the health sector
5. Workers in the oil and gas sector
6. Employees of government agencies who are required to work by the nature of their job or by a decision of the head of the competent authority
7. Workers in major infrastructure projects

• Publication of Financial Statements and Remote General Assemblies
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued its Circular No. 1 of 2020 setting out instructions with respect to the publication of financial statements for public and private shareholder companies.
For the purpose of complying with Article 126 of the Commercial Companies Law No. 11 of 2015 public and private shareholding companies are required to follow the below instructions:
1. The Chairman of the Board of Directors must provide the management, before publication, with a copy of the financial statement, profit and loss statement, a thorough summary of the report of the Board of Directors, and the full text of the auditors’ report for the fiscal year ending.
2. The Chairman of the Board of Directors must share with the management a copy of the publication at the same time that it is sent to the newspapers.
3. The publication must state clearly the name of the company, its legal form, and its commercial register number. These elements must be addressed in a clear and noticeable manner.
4. The publication must be published in two local daily newspapers, at least one of which is in Arabic, and on the company’s website, as applicable.
5. The publication should be published at least 15 days before the meeting of the general assembly of the company, and after obtaining all the approvals stipulated by other laws in the State.
The circular comes into effect from the date of its issuance, requiring all public and private shareholding companies to comply with its instructions.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in support of previous precautionary measures taken by the government of Qatar, also issued Circular No. 4 of 2020 permitting public and private shareholding companies to hold general assembly meetings remotely and permitting remote voting on resolutions and decisions using electronic

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