Qatar blockade hits medical tourism flow

 

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have completely cut ties with Qatar, allegedly because of its support for Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its alleged backing of Iran. Qatar has denied the accusations.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have cut diplomatic and consular relations with Qatar and closed all ground, sea and airports.

Citizens from the three countries have also been barred from travelling to Qatar, while Qatari citizens have been given 14 days to leave Saudi, UAE and Bahrain.

Qatar is the world's richest country and simmering historic tensions have been made worse as while Qatar has prepared well for a post-oil revenue world, many of the other neighbour states are suffering as their alternative economy plans are more hope than reality. A historic spat between Qatar and Saudi Arabia over gas is also a problem.

30,000 Qataris go overseas every year for medical treatment. Most go to Thailand with the rest to Europe. The ban may inconvenience a few by making them use different routes, but has no direct implication.

But as part of Dubai’s strategy to attract people from the MENA region, as Dubai is a UAE state, it will stop any Qatari medical tourists flying to Dubai and force any in Dubai- even if in mid- treatment- to go home.

All the UAE airlines including Emirates, Etihad, flydubai and Air Arabia have suspended flights to and from Doha, with Qatar Airways also suspending flights to and from Saudi Arabia.  Qatar has set up alternative routes via Iran.

The dispute prompted one Qatari businessman to fly 4,000 cows to the Gulf desert to fill the void left by a collapse in the supply of fresh milk.

European leaders have stayed out of the conflict - as all have strong ties to both sides and are concerned about affecting the 2022 World Cup. President Trump added fuel to the fire by commenting; "The nation of Qatar has historically been a funder of terrorism, and at a very high level." without backing this with evidence.

Qatar is a key military ally of the USA in the region. Qatar is home to the vast Al-Udeid airbase, the biggest US base in the Middle East, which holds the forward headquarters of Central Command and hosts 10,000 American troops. There are 15,000 Americans and many thousands of British and Europeans living in Qatar.

Qatar is rather annoyed by Trump. Kuwait is seeking to act as mediator, backed by Abu Dhabi, France and Turkey.

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