By Roy Mabasa
There are at least 119 overseas Filipinos in Saudi Arabia who tested positive of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and five of them succumbed to the disease, Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Adnan Alonto said on Monday.
In a phone patch interview at the Laging Handa briefing of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID), Alonto said while the situation in Saudi Arabia is “generally okay” the embassy and its consulates are monitoring members of the Filipino community who were affected by the pandemic.
“Some of our kababayans are facing challenges because of the ‘no-work, no-pay’ status here,” Alonto said, adding that the embassy and its consulates are providing food assistance to those who are in need and they are monitoring employers who are supposed to extend food and lodging to the distressed workers.
In the last few weeks, the Philippine government has repatriated hundreds of distressed OFWs from all over the world, including from Saudi Arabia following the outbreak of the pandemic.
Alonto begged the members of the Filipino community for understanding since the embassy and its consulates are operating with only less than 200 people to cater to the needs of more than 800,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia
He assured that all those in need would be provided with food assistance while those seeking repatriation will be flown back as soon as the Philippine government finalizes the flight arrangements.
On the Saudi’s partial lifting of the curfew, the Filipino diplomat said this still could affect many OFWs since most of the public and private offices remain close.
On orders of Saudi King Salman, the curfew will be lifted in the entire Kingdom except for Mecca and other isolated neighborhoods.
According to reports, the curfew will be lifted between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Sunday onwards. Malls, wholesale and retail shops will be allowed to operate from April 29 to May 13, which falls on the sixth day of Ramadan to the 20th day the holy month.
Alonto said the latest overall tally of COVID-19 positive in Saudi Arabia is now at 17,522 with 139 deaths and 2,357 recoveries.