DOHA: Qatar charity workers prepare food parcels for migrant laborers living under quarantine on April 16, 2020 amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - AFP

DOHA: Volunteers stack thousands of trays of steaming curry in a Doha kitchen, readying them to be distributed to low-income migrant workers facing food shortages while under lockdown due to COVID-19. The NGO Qatar Charity launched an initiative in recent weeks to deliver daily meals to around 4,000 migrant workers, many confined in the working-class Industrial Area in the south of the capital Doha.

Tens of thousands of residents were quarantined in the area after cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed among the community last month. The area faced food shortages in the early days of the lockdown, according to residents, diplomats and NGOs, with reports that stores hiked prices to unaffordable levels.

In response to a government request, Qatar Charity started distributing meals out of four kitchens, one of which was lent to the group by a restaurant better known for fine dining. "We want everyone to feel there are people who care about them, that they're not alone," said Qatar Charity volunteering supervisor Mohammed Ali Al-Ghamdi, as around him over a dozen volunteers packed meals and loaded them onto a decontaminated delivery van.

"Laborers in Doha do an amazing job, this is thanks from the community." Gas-rich Qatar - home to hundreds of thousands of foreign workers - has reported seven deaths from the COVID-19 disease and 4,103 cases so far. Qatari officials have said they are considering easing the lockdown on the Industrial Area after undertaking widespread testing, detection and treatment. The district has been ringed with police checkpoints and a sterilization unit deployed to disinfect delivery vehicles.

Cases at World Cup sites
Meanwhile, Qatar has detected three more coronavirus cases among workers on World Cup stadiums, organizers said, bringing the number of infections among those involved in 2022 tournament construction to eight. The Gulf nation has reported seven deaths from the COVID-19 disease and 4,103 cases in total, announcing the first infections in stadium workers on Wednesday.

Building work for the stadiums and infrastructure to stage the tournament has continued through the crisis even as non-essential retail has been halted and mosques, parks and restaurants have closed. "The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) has confirmed that two staff members who work for a SC contractor have tested positive for COVID-19," organizers said in a statement. "In addition, six workers on SC projects have tested positive." On Wednesday the SC said that staff at three of the seven stadiums being built from scratch for the 2022 tournament had been affected.

The SC was following health ministry guidance to respond to the cases and all those affected would continue to be paid and receive free healthcare, the statement added. The timings of the competition, due to be held in November and December of 2022, remain unchanged by the coronavirus pandemic which has already forced the postponement of the European football championships and the Tokyo Olympics. Both will now take place in 2021. - Agencies