OFWs in Middle East safe from coronavirus

by Mayen Jaymalin, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 01 2013 08:17 AM | Updated as of Jun 01 2013 04:17 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remain safe from the SARS-like virus now spreading in the Middle East, the Department of Labor and Employment said yesterday.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said they have not received any report of Filipino workers being infected with the deadly virus.

“This is not new to us, we have been monitoring these reports and we believe there is no reason for our workers and their families to be alarmed,” Baldoz said.

She said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office has not recorded any Filipino worker who manifested symptoms of respiratory illness.

But a group of OFWs in the Middle East urged the government to deploy a team of medical experts to Saudi Arabia to educate the OFWs on how to protect themselves from the infection.

“Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia should be properly informed, educated, and guided about taking care of their health amid the spread of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Symptom Coronavirus),” Migrante Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said.

Monterona said the deployment of a team of medical practitioners to Saudi Arabia can be arranged by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Health.

He said the deployment of a team or teams of medical workers to Saudi Arabia should be made permanent and not just because of the recent spread of MERS.

“There are lots of medical concerns by our fellow OFWs, not only in Saudi Arabia but also in other Mid-east countries,” he added.

Monterona said the spread of corona virus does not warrant a ban on the sending of Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia.

He urged the government to launch a massive health information and education campaign in Philippine diplomatic posts in the Middle East to prevent infection of MERS and other SARS-like corona viruses.

There are around 1.2 million OFWs living and working in Saudi Arabia.

WHO: Death toll rises

The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that the global death toll from a SARS-like virus has risen to 30 after three people died of the illness in Saudi Arabia, which is bearing the brunt of the outbreak.

WHO spokesman Glenn Thomas told reporters that the number was raised from 27 after Saudi authorities confirmed the deaths of the three, who had previously been reported to the WHO as suffering from the disease.

In addition, Thomas said, a new case has been recorded in Saudi Arabia, lifting the global total to 50, including the fatalities.

There have now been 39 confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia, 25 of them fatal, according to WHO figures.