Dubai Expo 2020: 3 Worker Deaths from COVID-19

Expo 2020 in Dubai acknowledged Sunday for the first-time that three workers died of the coronavirus while building the fair. This is a prestigious event that draws attention to labor conditions in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai Expo 2020: 3 Worker Deaths from COVID-19

Sconaid McGeachin, a spokesperson for Expo, stated that three people had died of the virus, and three more from injuries sustained during construction. She did not specify when. She refused to give details about the outbreak of coronavirus among workers at Expo.

McGeachin claimed that information regarding worker casualties was already available. However, he did not elaborate. Despite repeated requests by The Associated Press and other journalists, the authorities did not provide statistics on worker deaths, injuries, or coronavirus infection in the lead-up to the fair, which was estimated at $7 billion.

Expo presented conflicting information about the deaths of workers in industrial accidents at its site. The Expo team settled on three.

Human rights activists have long criticized the UAE for its treatment of the thousands of low-paid migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East that power its economy. Dubai has invested billions in its World Expo to become a tourist attraction and symbol of its country's appeal.

However, there are problems. Last month, the European Parliament urged countries not to participate in Expo. It cited the UAE's "inhumane acts against foreign workers", which it claimed were worsened by the pandemic.

Expo's worker's monument is a tribute to the many thousands of workers who worked tirelessly to create the fairgrounds. It is located between a performance stage, and a well-known Dubai bar chain.

Numerous somber columns of stone rise from the ground. They are wrapped in an incised roll calling out names of Expo workers. It is largely unmarked except for a small plaque that says: "Expo 2020 Dubai dedicates the monument to all our brothers, sisters and co-workers who created it."

Bright orange vest-clad maintenance workers knelt next to the stones on Sunday, looking for names and squinting. Expo officials repeatedly asked workers what they thought about monument. They told them to direct reporters asking questions to the official media center.

Human rights groups have criticized the UAE's restrictions on freedom of expression for their global extravaganza.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister, answered a question regarding the concerns of the European Parliament over labor abuses within the UAE at a Saturday press conference. He said that France would not support the call for an Expo boycott but instead raise any possible issues with Emirati authorities "behind locked doors". Expo's official transcript, however, was missing the sensitive exchange, raising questions about transparency at the site.

McGeachin said, "I will investigate that," when McGeachin was asked about the omission. "It is an oversight," McGeachin said.

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's long-serving president, flew in to visit the Expo pavilion. The Emirati efforts to build Expo Village were "a challenge for the Africans", as the UAE had "turned an desert into a centre of affluence."

He said, "Yesterday, when I arrived they took me for the COVID test." "In Africa, we sometimes say that big people shouldn't be checked."