Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



COVID-19, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, public health policies, immigrant workers


The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, first appeared in early 2020 and has since been able to spread rapidly across the globe. The rapid government response to the growing public health crisis created a unique opportunity to analyze and compare the COVID-19 related public health policies as enacted by various nations. Having dealt with the impact of MERS and SARS prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Middle East provides a distinct perspective into the question of whether prior exposure to public health crises prepared governments in the region to respond to COVID-19. Utilizing news sources reporting on public health policies in the region, as well as public health data as reported by the World Health Organization and the Coronavirus resource center: COVID-19 dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, I compare policies and subsequent health outcomes in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Were prior public health crises advantageous to countries within the Middle East in terms of their ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic? Based on regional evidence of national and subnational public health policy responses taking place during the period of COVID-19 pandemic onset, which can be defined as winter to spring of 2020, in addition to regional morbidity and mortality rate, this paper concludes that the data suggests otherwise. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of political actors having the capacity to offer effective public health policy responses, thus this paper offers a theoretical framework for why Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, despite their unique advantages, were equally unable to significantly lessen the number of confirmed cases and reported deaths due to COVID-19.