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Bahrain is angry because Qatar is helping stranded Bahrainis

The Bahraini nationals had arrived from Iran [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 March, 2020

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A group of 31 Bahrainis that were left stranded by their government in Qatar were welcomed in Doha, prompting backlash from their home government.
Bahrain has responded negatively to a Qatari gesture of goodwill this week, slamming Doha for taking in Bahraini citizens that were stranded in the country after their government refused to repatriate them.

In a statement published by Bahrain’s governmental National Communication Centre, Manama warned Qatari authorities against “interfering in [repatriation] arrangements through operating commercial flights that expose all passengers on those flights to health perils resulting from the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“The Qatari authorities should follow the precautionary rules and measures necessary to protect health and safety of passengers, aircraft crews and staff of different airports in line with the International Air Transport Association systems,” it added, according to Bahrain’s news agency BNA.

Read also: Saudi political analyst accuses Qatar of 'creating coronavirus' to ruin kingdom's economy

The statement came after Qatar announced it would welcome 31 Bahraini nationals who arrived in Doha from Iran. The group of Bahrainis had been refused assistance from their government in Manama and were thus left stranded in Qatar.

Bahrain joined Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017, when the Quartet imposed a land, air and sea blockade on the Gulf state.

The four countries accused Doha of backing radical Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and seeking closer ties with Saudi arch-rival Tehran, an allegation Qatar strongly denies.

“As Bahrain does not allow commercial flights from Qatar, the State of Qatar inquired with officials in Bahrain as to how Qatar could assist in the travellers’ efforts to return home,” a Qatari statement said on Saturday.

“Qatar offered to fly the Bahraini citizens on a private charter flight to Bahrain at no expense to the individuals or the government of Bahrain. The government of Bahrain declined this option.”

Doha confirmed it would conduct coronavirus tests for the 31 Bahraini citizens and provide adequate accommodation for the group in a “quarantine hotel at no cost”.

“Those testing positive will receive free and full health care at once. Those testing negative will continue to observe self-isolation for two weeks at a quarantine hotel, at no expense to them,” the statement added.

Bahrain later said it would send a flight to repatriate the group of nationals.

As of Sunday, Bahrain has 499 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, including 4 total deaths. Meanwhile, Qatar has 590 cases and on Saturday confirmed its first death from the disease.

On Monday, Qatar took part in an emergency Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] meeting, the first such participation since Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain imposed the blockade.

The COVID-19 virus, which was first detected in China's Wuhan in December, has killed more than 31,914 people worldwide, while over 680,583 infections have been confirmed.

The majority of those that infected with corona experience only mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and a dry cough.

As of yet, there are no known treatments for the virus, though more than 146,366 have already recovered from the infection.

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