DOLE erred in announcing number of Filipino COVID-19 cases in Qatar without clearance -- DFA

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should have first coordinated with the Philippine Embassy in Qatar before making public the number of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases involving Filipino nationals in that country, a high Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official said on Tuesday.

DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez was reacting to a statement earlier made by DOLE where it revealed that more than 3,000 Filipinos in Qatar have been infected with the virus, with 17 deaths. 

“Qatar is one of the countries that specifically asked not to share COVID figures publicly. DOLE should have cleared info with Ambassador (Alan) Timbayan first,” Meñez told reporters. 

Quoting reports from its Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Qatar, the labor department said it has recorded 3,052 COVID-positive OFWs and 17 deaths.

Since the outbreak began in February this year, the DFA has been cautious in providing the public with a specific number of cases involving Filipinos on a per-country basis, citing privacy issues as its main reason. 

The department, however, provides a regular tally on COVID-19 cases involving  Filipinos abroad based on regions or continents and not by countries.