By Roy Mabasa
There are only five to six Filipinos with confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19) in Belgium and all are on their way to recovery, Philippine Ambassador to Brussels Eduardo De Vega said on Monday.
Speaking via phone patch at the Laging Handa briefing of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID), De Vega said since the visa status of most Filipinos in Belgium is legal, “they are protected by Belgian laws,” covered with free hospitalization.
“Among Filipinos here, about five to six are affected (by COVID-19) and all are recovering,” the ambassador said.
De Vega, however, said the embassy is not 100 percent sure if there are other Filipinos who may have been infected by the virus in Belgium and in nearby Luxembourg due to the strict data privacy laws in those European countries. Luxembourg falls under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in Brussels.
According to the embassy statistics, there are an estimated 10,000 Filipinos in Belgium, around 3,000 of whom are already Belgian citizens while the rest are mostly in the household help sector or working at embassies.
Based on the latest Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Resource Center report, Belgium ranked 12th in the world in terms of the number of people with confirmed COVID-19 cases. Belgium’s official coronavirus website showed that the number of Belgians infected with the virus is nearing the 40,000 marks with 5,683 deaths, as of April 18, 2020. Almost 8,800 have recovered since March 15, 2020.
De Vega explained that the high percentage rate of COVID-19 positive cases in Belgium is reflective due to its relatively small population of only about 11.5 million people.
While the number of coronavirus cases in Belgium is high, the Filipino diplomat noted that hospitals are not fully saturated because many of those infected are recuperating at home.
For now, the only concern of the Filipino community in Belgium is how to avail of the financial assistance from the Philippine government, most particularly those whose jobs were affected by the pandemic and the undocumented workers.
De Vega said they are currently talking to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to possibly include the undocumented ones in the government’s one-time cash incentive program.