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Three workers died of Covid on Dubai Expo site, officials say

Three labourers died from Covid-19 during construction of Dubai’s Expo 2020 site, officials said Sunday, a day after revealing three work-related deaths.

More than 200,000 workers helped build the giant showground on the outskirts of Dubai, which occupies an area twice the size of Monaco and has been touted as a “new city”.

“We’ve never been complacent on worker welfare, this is a matter we take extremely seriously,” said spokeswoman Sconaid McGeachin, who refused to disclose the total number of infections among Expo’s labour force.

On Saturday, officials defended the work-related deaths, saying the fatality rate was lower than in Britain’s construction sites.

The United Arab Emirates has often been criticised for its practises towards migrant workers, which the European parliament called “inhumane” in a resolution last month calling for an Expo boycott.

Expo, featuring hundreds of buildings including several imaginative pavilions, cost $7 billion and is intended as a brand new city to house green technology industries, the world fair’s director general Reem Al Hashimy told AFP.

“It was never an investment to host an Expo, it was an investment to create a new city that is equal distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and really the city of the future,” she said in an interview, pledging “over 90 percent” of the structures would remain after the six-month event.

Expo is one of a number of ambitious projects in Dubai — including the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa — built by immigrant labourers, mostly from South Asia.

In January, Human Rights Watch said “low-paid migrant workers (in UAE) especially face serious abuses, most commonly unpaid and delayed wages”.