By Roy Mabasa
The Philippine embassy in Tripoli on Monday reported zero coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related cases among the 2,300 Filipinos still working in war-torn Libya.
Almost half of the members of the Filipino community are working as healthcare workers while others are deployed in various oil fields in the North African country.
While there are concerns among Filipinos about the effects and spread of COVID-19, the most immediate threat to both the locals and foreign nationals are the aerial shelling and rockets being fired from warring factions in Libya.
The embassy was forced to relocate outside Tripoli after the hostilities recently stepped up in the capital.
According to COVID-monitoring online app Worldometer, Libya has only 63 confirmed cases and three fatalities related to the pandemic.
“We are fortunate because the number of (COVID-19) cases here is very low…. We are constantly in touch with our kababayans here and they already know what to do with regards to COVID-19. We would like to assure them that we will not leave this place,” according to Elmer Cato of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, adding that repatriation of Filipinos who wish to go back to the Philippines has to wait at the moment due to the current lockdown and closure of airports and borders.
This is the same dilemma faced by around 200 Filipino construction workers in Algeria, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli.
The embassy, however, said repatriation of distressed Filipinos in Libya will be made along with those in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco as soon as the situation would allow.