The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh linked up with the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health to better protect some one million Filipinos in the oil-rich country against the new strain of virus similar with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
In a statement, the embassy cautioned Filipinos once more against the now called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or coronavirus. Symptoms include coughing, fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea and pneumonia.
The embassy’s website now features a link to the Saudi Health Ministry, so Filipinos may be able to learn more about that virus. Among the information that can be found in the link are frequently asked questions, health staff regulations, media statements and news.
Besides these, the embassy also published videos on infectious prevention and control precautions when taking care of people with probable or confirmed coronavirus.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has earlier called on the hundreds of Filipinos camped outside the Philippine missions in Riyadh and Jeddah to seek shelter because of the heightened risk of being affected by the virus.
Filipinos started camping outside the Philippine-run facilities in Riyadh and Jeddah because of the kingdom’s new Saudization law, which requires employers to provide employment opportunities to Saudi nationals than foreign citizens.
The kingdom is also intensifying its crackdown against illegally staying foreign
nationals in the country. Unofficial records from the Philippine government said there could be thousands of illegally staying Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, mostly working as domestic helpers.
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, called on Filipinos earlier to seek medical assistance as soon as symptoms of the virus become present. He also said the Philippines will not be sending medical attaches to the kingdom because it is against Saudi’s rules and regulations.
He expressed confidence that the medical expertise and facilities of Saudi Arabia will be able to provide needed assistance to local and foreign nationals there.
The SARS-like coronavirus has already killed 30 people worldwide, according to statistics from the World Health Organization. Saudi Arabia has the record of the most cases of the virus so far with 39 cases and 25 deaths.
Worldwide, there are 50 cases of coronavirus, with the latest deaths recorded in a province in Saudi Arabia.
The virus is from the same family of SARS that had an outbreak in the late 2003. That virus killed 775 people.
Bernice Camille V. Bauzon