The sale of chicken dishes and fresh and frozen chicken has dropped in Qatar in the wake of the bird flu outbreak in five large eastern cities of China, inquiries have found.
Gulf Times spoke to a number of stakeholders to discover the decline varies between ‘significant’ at upscale eateries frequented by locals and westerns to ‘slight’ at mid-market restaurants famous among Asian and African expatriates. Supermarkets selling frozen chicken and stores dealing in live poultry were also hit by the scare.
“We are receiving customers who ask for beef, mutton and vegetables now instead of chicken…chicken is no more the most sought out food,” said the owner of a south Indian restaurant in Al-Najma locality in Doha.
Though he wasn’t sure about the reason behind people staying away from what has been a specialty of his eatery, the owner was shocked because of business losses.
Same was the case with Turkish restaurant Ali Baba in Al-Mansoura area nearby. “We are losing clientele which will come to us because of our chicken dishes…but it is not very dramatic,” said one of the chefs.
Officials at some hypermarkets said the sale of frozen chicken at their outlets across Doha is also down but they are not sure about the percentage.
“It is something we can feel now…not very high but not ignorable as well,” said an official at a supermarket, requesting his name not be mentioned.
The impact of bird flu scare was much more pinching at restaurants inside the city’s elitist hotels in the West Bay area that is home to several thousand Westerners working in Qatar.
“Chicken is almost no more served at our restaurants…we avoid it ourselves but provide if there is a demand,” said an official at the Doha Marriott Hotel, seeking anonymity.
The new strain of bird flu that surfaced in China has infected 18 people, most of them critical, and six have died until Saturday, causing concern overseas. Four deaths occurred in Shanghai and two in Zhejiang.
Chinese authorities have killed more than 20,000 birds from a live-poultry trading zone in Shanghai in an effort to deal with the issue. The cull came as researchers in the US said they had started work on developing a vaccine for H7N9.
Incidentally, in Qatar the Supreme Council of Health announced last week the first death from Influenza A (H1N1). The deceased was a 43-year-old Qatari man. The Council said the citizen was admitted to hospital on March 29 complaining of difficulty in breathing and a rise in temperature, adding that he was also suffering from chronic diseases.
After medical examinations it became evident that the patient was suffering from severe pneumonia and was given anti-flu treatment. He was admitted to the intensive care unit under the supervision of a medical team but his condition did not improve and he died on Thursday.
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