Expo 2020 Dubai, a major world exhibition that opened last week, said on Sunday that three workers on the project had died after contracting COVID-19, pushing the number of fatalities to six workers since 2015.
The organizer had first announced three work-related deaths and 72 serious injuries among 200,000 workers during the construction of the site on Saturday, defending the accident rate as less than half that of construction work in Britain.
“Unfortunately, we had three worker deaths due to Covid. That was in the course of the pandemic,” Expo representative Sconaid McGeachin told a daily briefing. McGeachin said the three deaths previously disclosed were related to construction.
She referred reporters to local authorities for comment on how many Expo employees had contracted COVID-19 so far. The Dubai government media agency did not immediately respond to an emailed request from Reuters for comment.
The United Arab Emirates does not provide a breakdown of COVID-19 cases and deaths for each emirate, including the Dubai Regional Trade and Tourism Center.
Major projects in the Gulf region, such as the Expo and Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, have come under international scrutiny, with human rights groups criticizing the conditions for low-paid migrant workers. Overcrowding in workers’ housing was one of the main factors driving a spate of infections in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries at the start of the pandemic.
Expo 2020 said workers’ housing is being monitored to ensure conditions are not cramped.
The country has rolled out one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns, with more than 80% of its population of approximately 10 million people vaccinated. The UAE is betting that the six-month Expo will attract 25 million visitors.
Visitors aged 18 and over must be able to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. There are also testing facilities on site.
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