Qatar university threatens to fire Canadian staff if they travel during pandemic

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Canadian staff at an international university in Qatar have been told they could be fired for leaving the country despite the isolated peninsular nation suffering the highest rate of Covid-19 per capita in the world, Canadian media reported.

Several members of staff at the College of the North Atlantic campus in Doha, known by the acronym CAN-Q, told Canada’s CBC news that they feel afraid and trapped but fear reprisals if they attempt to return home.

"Living in a country that has, for weeks, had the highest per capita number of positive COVID cases in the world is extremely stressful, and several CNA-Q employees are anxious to leave for summer," one employee told the news station by email.

Coronavirus in the Middle East

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The university confirmed to the broadcaster that staff could be fired if they travel and are unable to return despite classes being suspended since March due to the global pandemic.

"CNA-Q employees who decide to leave Qatar and do not return to work at CNA-Q when required may have their employment agreement terminated," a spokesperson told CBC.

"Accommodations will not be made for remote work or teaching from outside Qatar," CNA president Elizabeth Kidd wrote in a staff email. "If you choose to travel, you should plan accordingly."

The small nation has 86,488 confirmed cases with 94 deaths. More than 1,000 new cases have been recorded daily since May 8. So far, 66,000 have recovered.

The majority of the 650 staff at the state-owned university operated by the Newfoundland-based College of the North Atlantic are Canadian nations and many are seconded from the Stephenville main campus.

Qatar has shut its borders to travellers to contain the spread of the virus but is allowing nationals and residents to return if they have a 14-day booking for a hotel that is facilitating quarantining. However, CBS quoted staff asking why they would be required to undertake the costly stay in a hotel when they have provided housing in which they could complete the period of isolation.

One member of staff told CBC News that the rules seemed strange as they had just successfully completed the summer semester using distance learning after the campus closed in March.

"CNA employees have been teaching online from mid-March and it's working," the person said. "Many employees can't understand why they can't continue to do this from the safety of their home country."

Updated: June 21, 2020 02:21 PM

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