Qatar


Authors:
Chadia El Meouchi – Managing Partner – Badri and Salim El Meouchi Law Firm
Walid Honein - Partner - Badri and Salim El Meouchi Law Firm
Carine Farran – Partner – Deputy Managing Partner – Badri and Salim El Meouchi Law Firm
Grace AlamAssociate - Badri and Salim El Meouchi Law Firm


Emails:
Chadia El Meouchi – Managing Partnerchadia.elmeouchi@elmeouchi.com
Walid Honein - Partner - walid.honein@elmeouchi.com
Carine Farran - Partner – Deputy Managing Partnercarine.farran@elmeouchi.com
Grace AlamAssociate grace.alam@elmeouchi.com


Firm:
Badri and Salim El Meouchi LLP – legal@elmeouchi.com
Website Contact: http://www.elmeouchi.com/
Address: Amwal Tower, 12th Floor, PO Box 200321 (Al Hilal), West Bay, Doha, Qatar
Local Number: +974 4036 0825 - LLP Licensed by the QFCA #00033


This is a general overview of the main regulations issued and legal measures adopted in the State of Qatar (“Qatar”) as of 27 February 2020 to prevent, limit the spread of, and remedy the Covid-19 outbreak in Qatar (the “Overview”). This Overview is for general guidance only and provides for the main regulations issued and legal measures and adopted as at 7 May 2020 and is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the laws of Qatar particularly given that due to the extraordinary situation, the legislation is in continuous evolution and may change at any time. The Overview is provided on a general basis and does not constitute in any way whatsoever a full-fledged definitive legal advice, memorandum or opinion on the subject matter, and specific legal advice should always be obtained for specific legal issues on a case by case basis. Should you require further information or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us through the contact information above.


Introduction

The State of Qatar is a sovereign and independent state in the Middle East, occupying a peninsula that juts into the Arabian Gulf. Since its complete independence from Britain in 1971, Qatar has emerged as one of the world's most important producers of oil and gas. It is an Islamic State which laws and customs generally follow the Islamic tradition. Since 2013, the country has been governed by HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (https://portal.www.gov.qa/wps/portal/about-qatar). Qatar has also adopted civil law based commercial laws and in the Qatar Financial Centre, the laws and regulations are inspired by the common law.

The first case of the coronavirus disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Qatar was confirmed on 27 February 2020. As of 28 April 2020, Qatar had the 2nd highest number of confirmed cases in the Arab World at 11,921 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_coronavirus_pandemic_in_Qatar).

PRECAUTIONARY AND PREVENTIVE MEASURES TAKEN BY THE STATE OF QATAR AGAINST THE CORONAVIRUS

The Government progressively issued decisions aiming to control and limit air traffic to some of the countries where infection cases have been registered, and issued statements, measures and decisions addressing necessary measures and procedures to be adopted to prevent and limit the virus spread; these include mainly the following - as detailed in the sections below:

  1. Amendment of Decree Law No. 17.

  2. Main decisions, statements and measures issued by the following authorities:

  • Government Communications Office;

  • Ministry of Commerce and Industry;

  • Ministry of Ministry of Public Health;

  • Ministry of Municipality and Environment;

  • Ministry of Ministry of Finance;

  • Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs;

  • Ministry of Interior;

  • Ministry of Transport and Communications;

  • Qatar Chamber of Commerce; and,

  • Qatar Financial Centre.

  1. Establishment of Health Prosecution.

  2. Decisions adopted by Qatari banks and legal entities.

  1. AMENDMENT OF DECREE LAW NO.17

Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani issued on 26 March 2020 Law No. 9 of 2020 (“Law No.9”) amending some of the provisions of the Decree Law No. 17 of 1990 (“Decree Law No. 17”) (https://www.almeezan.qa/PDF/2020/6.pdf) on the prevention of infectious diseases. Law no. 9 mainly provides for (i) the obligations of doctors, heads of institutions and employers to report all cases of infectious disease, (ii) the obligations of every person who is placed in isolation or quarantine to remain in the place of isolation and abide by the procedures of isolation and control, and (iii) the penalties for failing to abide by the imposed obligations.

Articles 4 and 21 of Decree Law No. 17 were amended by virtue of Law No. 9 to be read as follows:

  • Article 4 of Decree Law No.17, provides that burden of reporting stipulated in the previous article falls on every doctor who examines someone who is infected or suspected of having an infectious disease; the infected person and their guardian, the president or representative of the infected person's university, institute or school, infected person's direct manager if the infection took place or suspected to have taken place during performing work duties-, and on the employer, in case of expatriates, whether the infection took place inside or outside the state; when any of them knows about it.

  • Article 21 of Decree Law no. 17 provides the following:

  1. Violating the provisions of Articles (3) (a person diagnosed or suspected to have an infectious disease must be immediately reported to the nearest hospital medical centre, and the latter must inform the health authority), (4), (6 bis), (7) second and third paragraphs), (8), (11), ( authority of the health authorities to suspend infected persons or suspected persons from work, prevention from transportation and obligation for their supervisors to apply these measures, and measures for the transportation of deceased infected persons) and the procedures and measures taken by the Council of Ministers in accordance with the provisions of Article (10 / last paragraph), is punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years and a fine not exceeding QAR 200,000, or by either of these two penalties.

  2. Violating the provisions of Articles (15 / last paragraph), (16) and (17) is punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month and by a fine not exceeding QAR 10,000, or by either of these two penalties. Articles 15, 16 and 17 of Decree Law No. 17 concern the vaccination that must be provided to the babies and pilgrims against the infectious disease and the responsibility of competent health department to provide such vaccination.

The following articles have been added to Decree- Law No. 17:

  • Article (6-bis) provides that every person who is placed in isolation or quarantine, with the knowledge of the health authorities, according to the provisions of the previous article, must remain in the place of isolation designated by that authority and abide by the procedures for isolation and control.

  • Article (10/last paragraph) provides that the Council of Ministers, upon the proposal of the minister, and with a view to limiting the spread of the infectious disease, may take appropriate public measures to preserve public health, including imposing restrictions on the freedom of persons to gather, move, reside and pass in certain places or times.

As an update, the Cabinet of Qatar, on 7 May 2020, affirmed the continuation of the precautionary measures taken and considered the following issues on its agenda (https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/07/05/2020/Cabinet-affirms-continuation-of-precautionary-measures-to-combat-pandemic):

  • Approval of a draft law amending some provisions of Law No. 1 of 1986 regarding the registration of pharmaceutical companies.

  • Approval of (i) a draft decision by the Minister of Justice to issue rules for the obligations of real estate brokers and notaries empowered with requirements to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, and (ii) a draft decision by the Minister of Justice to issue rules for the obligations of lawyers with the requirements of combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

  • A draft decision by the Minister of Commerce and Industry addressing the executive regulations of Law No. (1) of 2019 regulating non-Qatari capital in economic activity.

  • Approval of the provisions of Law No. (24) of 2002 regarding retirement and pensions for some departments.

2. MAIN STATEMENTS, MEASURES AND DECISIONS ISSUED BY THE FOLLOWING AUTHORITIES

2.1 Main statements issued by the Government Communications Office

The Supreme Committee for Crisis Management took the main following precautionary measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus:

2.2 Main decisions issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry

  • 22 March 2020: retail outlets to apply safe distancing rule among customers and clients (https://www.moci.gov.qa/en/mec_news/ministry-of-commerce-and-industry-compels-retail-outlets-to-apply-safe-distancing-rule-among-customers-and-clients/)
    In the context of the precautionary and preventive measures announced by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (the “MCI”) to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, and pursuant to Article 13 of the Consumer Protection Law No. 8 of 2008, which requires suppliers to comply with health and safety requirements, the MCI compelled retail outlets across the country to apply the safe distancing rule of one-and-a-half meters among customers and clients, including those waiting in queues at cashier and reception desks, by placing guiding signs on the ground.

  • 23 March 2020: issuance of a circular regarding temporary closure of all restaurants, cafes, food outlets and food carts (https://www.moci.gov.qa/en/mec_news/ministry-of-commerce-and-industry-issues-circular-on-temporarily-closure-of-all-restaurants-cafes-food-outlets-and-food-carts/)
    The MCI issued a circular, temporarily closing all restaurants, cafes, food outlets and food carts in the following places: Sports clubs, Lusail Corniche, carts gathering, Doha Corniche, Al Khor Corniche and Aspire Park, starting 22 March 2020, and until further notice.

  • 23 March 2020: extension of the exchange and refund period for goods and merchandises (https://www.moci.gov.qa/en/mec_news/ministry-of-commerce-and-industry-announces-extension-of-the-exchange-and-refund-period-for-goods-and-merchandises/)
    Following the decision to close retail outlets in malls and shopping centers, the MCI announced the extension of the exchange and refund period for goods and merchandises. The closing period is excluded from the refund and exchange period specified in each store’s policy.

  • 31 March 2020: issuance of a circular regarding executed contracts to hold concerts, festivals, events and special gatherings (https://www.moci.gov.qa/en/mec_news/ministry-of-commerce-and-industry-issues-circular-on-ratified-contracts-to-hold-concerts-festivals-events-and-special-gatherings/)
    The MCI issued a circular on holding concerts, festivals, events and special gatherings that compels contractors and providers of these services to seek consensual agreements with clients following the directives to ban concerts, festivals, events and special gatherings.
    Given that COVID-19 is considered a global pandemic and a force majeure that could not be anticipated or avoided, which makes it difficult for some suppliers to fulfil their obligations towards consumers at the present time, and in line with this circular, the MCI called on service providers to execute new contracts that outline other dates to fulfil their obligations or to seek consensual agreements that take into account the interests of both parties with regard to the down payments and financial instalments made to suppliers in return for assuming their obligations as agreed with consumers.

  • 12 April 2020: setting the maximum e-marketing and products delivery charges (https://www.moci.gov.qa/en/mec_news/ministry-of-commerce-and-industry-announces-setting-the-maximum-e-marketing-and-products-delivery-charges/)
    The MCI announced the decision of the committee responsible for the determination of the maximum prices and profit ratios No. 3 of 2020 to set the maximum charges for e-marketing and products delivery services.

    The issuance of this decision falls in line with the MCI’s keenness to crack down on the unjustified rise in e-marketing and products delivery charges, deter monopolistic practices and commercial fraud, and ensure the consumer’s right to obtain these services at affordable prices.

    The decision outlined the maximum service charges to be imposed by marketing and delivery platforms on the supplier and consumer to market or deliver their products according to the following type of services:

          • The maximum service price is 19% of the order value when it comes to marketing and delivery services.

          • The maximum service price is 10% of the order value when it comes to marketing services only.

          • The maximum delivery charge for consumers is QR10 for delivery services only.

The decision of the committee responsible for the determination of the maximum prices and profit ratios No. 3 of 2020 outlined the following conditions:

  • Marketing and delivery platforms are prohibited from imposing discriminatory conditions, refusing to deal with or placing restrictions upon the supplier, or imposing any other percentages or sums on suppliers and consumers through any means or under any label in order to collect additional charges in violation of the provisions of this decision.

  • Marketing and delivery platforms will not increase charges for the services outlined in the decision before obtaining the prior approval of the above-mentioned committee.

  • The supplier should give priority to dealing with marketing and delivery platforms affiliated with national companies and businesses operating in the field of product marketing and delivery.

  • Marketing and delivery platforms subject to the provisions of this decision must also reconcile their status accordingly and commit to adding an appendix of the service charges for valid contracts in accordance with the provisions of this decision.

  • Marketing and delivery platforms are compelled to provide copies of the valid contracts for which an appendix of service charges and price lists by the contracted supplier was added within a month of the decision’s issuance.

  • 23 April 2020: issuance of a circular on determining working hours for commercial activities during the holy month of Ramadan (https://www.moci.gov.qa/en/mec_news/ministry-of-commerce-and-industry-issues-circular-on-determining-working-hours-for-commercial-activities-during-the-holy-month-of-ramadan/)
    The MCI issued circular No. 20 of 2020 on determining working hours for commercial activities during the holy month of Ramadan. The working hours for private companies and retail outlets were set from 09:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

    The following activities have been excluded from the decision:

        • Food, subsidised supplies, consumers goods, vegetables and fruits outlets (hypermarkets, supermarkets and grocery stores)

        • Restaurants and cafés (coffee shops) that may only process delivery orders

        • Shops selling sweets, coffee and dates

        • Telecom companies

        • Delivery companies through electronic apps

        • Pharmacies

        • Gas stations and car services

        • Agencies’ maintenance workshops

        • Bakeries

        • Companies operating in the hospitality sector

        • Factories

        • Maintenance companies (electricity, plumbing, and electronics services)

        • Logistics services companies and freight companies operating in ports, airports, and customs services

  • 23 April 2020: issuance of a circular regarding exemption of the contracting and construction sector from the decision on specified working hours (https://www.moci.gov.qa/en/mec_news/ministry-of-commerce-and-industry-issues-circular-exempting-the-contracting-and-construction-sector-from-the-decision-on-specified-working-hours/)
    The MCI also issued circular No. 21 of 2020 exempting the contracting and construction sector from the decision on specified working hours. Exempted businesses include: contracting and construction companies, building materials and equipment companies, technical, mechanical and carpentry workshops, offices and engineering laboratories and stores and warehouses. All provided that the following conditions are met:

        • To measure the body temperature of all employees twice a day and to isolate any worker with a high body temperature.

        • To prepare a list of elderly workers and employees with chronic illness conditions.

        • To comply with safe distancing measures both in the workplace and at home.

        • To commit to wearing masks and using sterilizers both at work and at home.

        • To abide by working hours and shift requirements and to ban gatherings in workplaces and homes.

2.3 Main decisions issued by the Ministry of Public Health

  • Circular No. 3 of 2020 – In alignment with the Department of Health Professions’ (“DHP”) at the Ministry of Public Health (“MoPH”) the following actions have been taken to deal with the current situation of the coronavirus and in to the aim of avoiding interruption of health services in the healthcare sectors in Qatar in addition to ensuring the availability of the healthcare workforce/providers to promptly manage this crisis:

        • Extending the validity of the medical license (expired or due for renewal) automatically for 6 months and the healthcare workforce/providers can continue practicing as usual without the need to apply for renewal through the online system.

        • Once this emergency situation subsides and stabilizes, then all healthcare practitioners should apply for renewal through the online registration with all the requirements as per the DHP’s process (https://www.moph.gov.qa/english/mediacenter/Announcements/Pages/AnnouncementsDetails.aspx?ItemId=52).

The Minister of Municipality and Environment, HE Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Subaie issued a decision providing that housings over five workers in a family residential area constitute a violation of the law banning labour camps in family residential areas.

The Ministerial Decision has excluded female workers from its provision (regardless the nature of their work), the housing of domestic workers, such as housemaids and drivers.

2.5 Main decision issued by the Ministry of Finance - General Tax Authority

The General Tax Authority at the Ministry of Finance announced that the payment of tax will be postponed until 30 June 2020 (https://gta.gov.qa/en/#).

2.6 Main decisions issued by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs

  • The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs (the “MADLS”) had initiated the establishment of 19 joint labour committees in major companies operating in the State of Qatar in the sectors of manufacturing, construction, contracting, maintenance, transportation and hospitality. The MADLS seeks, through extensive communication with workers' representatives, to prevent the spread of coronavirus and provide workers with health advice.

    During the coronavirus outbreak crisis, the committees’ work to address the socio-economic challenges presented by the pandemic in cooperation with all parties concerned, including the MADLS, employers and workers.

    The companies concerned should:

        • Examine the workers in their medical clinics;

        • Allocate rooms for quarantine in the employees' residence sites (for individuals who have had contact with one of those infected with the coronavirus or who have been infected with the disease), in order to communicate with the relevant medical authorities to take the necessary measures;

        • Allocate to employees specialized housing, in order to monitor health and safety measures on a daily basis;

        • Take additional measures to protect workers who have chronic diseases such as transporting people with heart diseases to another location or those who asked to work from home in order to reduce their mixing with others and thus reduce the risk of infection.

The MADLS is currently preparing and developing guidelines on organizing elections for workers’ representatives electronically for companies wishing to establish joint committees.
The MADLS has also developed its capacity-building program for members of joint committees via the Internet and will publish a guidance note for members of joint committees during the current corona virus outbreak (https://www.adlsa.gov.qa/en/news/Pages/news2142020.aspx).

  • The MADLS confirmed the importance of cooperation between the employers and employees during this period to mitigate social and economic damage. The MADLS called on both the employers and the employees to abide by the following instructions (https://www.adlsa.gov.qa/en/news/Pages/news150402020.aspx):

        • The employers' continuation of the payment of the basic salaries and other allowances such as meals and housing in accordance with their contracts in the sectors, activities and services for which work did not stop due to the quarantine measures enforced to fight the spread of Covid-19.

        • It is possible in all sectors, activities and services that have followed the government's instructions to cease their work given the quarantine measures to fight the spread of Covid-19 for the employers and employees to agree that the employees take an unpaid leave, or an annual leave or reduce their working hours, or that they agree to reduce the salary momentarily in accordance with the following:

                  • In the cases where the employer offers directly the meals and/or housing, they should continue to provide the adequate meals and housing to the employees for free. It is not possible for the employers and employees to agree on the reduction or cancellation of such privileges.

                  • In the cases where the employer offers allowances for meals and/or housing, they should continue to provide such meal and/or housing allowances. It is not possible for the employers and employees to agree on the reduction or cancellation of such privileges.

  • Employees that are isolated or subject to health quarantines or that are receiving treatment will continue to receive their basic salaries and allowances regardless of whether they have the right to have a sick leave or not.

  • It is possible for the employer to terminate employment contract subject to abiding completely by the provisions of the Labor Law and the employment contract including the notice period and the payment of all pending dues including the return ticket to the employee's home country.

2.7 Main decisions issued by the Ministry of Interior

2.8 Main decisions issued by the Ministry of Transport and Communications - Qatar Ports

2.9 Main decisions taken by the Qatar Chamber of Commerce

Qatar Chamber of Commerce has launched 'Takatuf Initiative' with a view to urging its members, public and private joint-stock companies and businessmen to support the country's efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The initiative aims to mitigate the economic impacts of the precautionary measures taken by the country to protect citizens and residents from COVID-19 through providing in-kind support as a contribution to provide governmental needs required for these measures (https://qatarchamber.com/takatuf-initiative/).

2.10 Main decisions taken by the Qatar Financial Centre

Qatar Financial Centre (“QFC”), one of the world's leading and fastest growing onshore business and financial centres, announced new support measures to offer relief to the 900 plus firms already registered on its platform.

Affirming its ongoing commitment to supporting the nation's economic policies, QFC announced that:

  • It will provide deadline extensions for tax filings due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis without incurring any late filing penalties, in addition to reducing the rate of the charge due on the late payment of tax (late payment charge) to 0% from 1 March 2020 to 31 August 2020. The updated rates will ensure that any QFC firm who extends their filing due date will not suffer any late payment charges until 31 August 2020, should their tax due also be paid after the payment due date.

  • The waiver of the Concessionary Rate Charge due on qualifying QFC entities that elect for the 0% Concessionary Rate under Part 15 of the Tax Regulations if the election is made during the year 2020 (Part 15 of the Tax Regulations can be found on the following link: http://www.complinet.com/net_file_store/new_rulebooks/q/f/QFCRA_7103_VER4.pdf).

  • It will provide deadline extensions for filing audited annual financial statements by a period of two months.

  • Strengthened its digitalization processes for firms' incorporation, ensuring that all automated processes are approved swiftly, from the point where a firm submits a business case to when a firm is licensed on the QFC platform and receiving post licensing services such as immigration, banking and relocation support.

  • It continues to offer full support to its firms during coronavirus, including a 24/7, multilingual call centre where clients can continue to relay their licensing and post-licensing queries, as well as other business servicing questions.

  • It supports the business community through encouraging the use of advertising critical job roles on Bayt.com, the Middle East's leading job site, for free. To help combat the spread of COVID-19 in the community, Bayt.com is offering free classic job postings to fill critical positions including: Doctors, Nurses, and Health Professionals; Public Health Experts, Scientists, and Researchers; Healthcare Workers and Support Staff; Cleaning and Sanitization Staff; Logistics and Transportation Staff; Security and Safety Staff; Non-profit Staff.​​​

2.11 Establishment of Health Prosecution

His Excellency the Attorney General issued Resolution No. 46 of 2020, concerning the establishment of a specialized health prosecution named (Health Prosecution) as part of the precautionary and preventive measures taken by the State to preserve public health and public safety.

The resolution to establish the Health Prosecution comes within the context of the deterrent means for violators of public health laws, while the new Health Prosecution has jurisdiction to investigate and take action in all health-related crimes, especially those that occur in violation of the provisions of the following laws:

  • Law No. (11) of 1982 regarding the regulation of medical institutions.

  • Law No. (2) of 1983 regarding the practice of the professions related to human medicine and dentistry and dental surgery and its amendments.

  • Law No. (3) of 1983 regarding the regulation of the professions of pharmacists, mediators and agents of pharmaceutical factories and companies and its amendments.

  • Decree-Law No. (17) of 1990 regarding the prevention of infectious diseases.

  • Law No. (3) of 2014 regarding the packaging and serving of human food.

  • Law No. (15) of 2015 regarding the regulation of the transfer and transplantation of human organs.

  • Law No. (16) of 2016 regarding mental health.

The resolution stated that all reports related to health crimes pending before all other prosecutions will be referred to the Health Prosecution unless an action has been taken in them. The resolution indicated that the Health Prosecution is headed by a Prosecutor or a higher rank and assisted by a sufficient number of Prosecutors and Assistant Prosecutors. This is in line with the precautionary and preventive measures taken by the State to preserve public health and public safety and has jurisdiction to investigate and take action in crimes arising from the violation of the abovementioned health-related laws.

2.12 Decisions taken by Qatari Banks and companies

  • Katara has exempted tenants from rent and other utility fees like electricity and water for a period of three months.

  • Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), a member of Qatar Foundation, has announced that it is exempting all retail, startup and SME tenants from rent and service charges for the next six months, until September.

  • Manateq announced in statement on their website that all tenants in logistics parks and industrial zone are exempted from rent for a period of six months. The move is in effect from March 15, 2020.

  • Many establishments have come forward either postponing or exempting rent for their commercial units. Ezdan Mall said it was exempting all retailers at Ezdan Mall Gharaffa, Ezdan Mall Al Wakra and Ezdan Mall Al Wukair from rent for March, April, and May, 2020.

  • Barwa Real Estate has postponed rent payment by three months with effect from April, 2020.

  • Msheireb Properties have exempted commercial outlets from rent and service bills from March 15 till further notice.

  • Qatar Airways passengers affected by flight cancellation due to coronavirus can get a full refund or re-book their tickets to alternative dates without charge.

  • Doha Bank, one of the largest private commercial banks in Qatar, has recently contributed QR2 million in donations to the Qatar Charity’s project to provide quarantined migrant workers in the Industrial Area with food and medical supplies.

  • QNB is offering a degree of leniency to its SME borrowers, and recently declared that all payments under their SMEs loan holders and Documentary Credits, will be postponed for three months without any interest or fee starting March 2020.