6:51 am | Sunday, June 2nd, 2013
MANILA, Philippines—An overseas Filipino workers group has called on the Philippine government to send medical attachés to Saudi Arabia which has been hit by an outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said OFWs in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries had many questions about the ailment and the Philippine government should do something to educate them and prepare them for any contingencies.
“There are lots of medical concerns of our OFWs not only in Saudi Arabia but also in other Mideast countries. Giving them the right information, education and guidance would be of help to prevent work-related diseases,” said Monterona in a statement.
Citing latest reports, Monterona said three more persons had died from MERS-CoV, on top of the 17 previous fatalities in the kingdom.
“It is in the best interest of the Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia to be properly informed, educated and guided about taking care of their health amid the spread of MERS-CoV,” he added.
He said the Philippine government should also launch a massive information and education campaign about MERS-CoV and other illnesses such as avian flu and swine flu at all entry and exit points of the country like airports and at various diplomatic outposts in the Middle East.
On Friday, Italy became the ninth country to report a MERS-CoV infection, which struck a 45-year-old man who had traveled to Jordan.
Deployment of medical attachés
Aside from Saudi Arabia and Italy, other countries where the ailment has spread include Jordan, Qatar, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United Arab Emirates. A total of 51 people have been infected, 30 of whom had died.
The OFW leader said the deployment of a team of medical practitioners for the purpose of educating OFWs in Saudi Arabia on how to avoid MERS-CoV infection could be arranged by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Health.
“I think it does not need prior approval by the host government as the deployment of a team of medical attachés could be done as an internal arrangement between the two Philippine government agencies. But if the DFA could arrange the deployment of Filipino medical attachés in the spirit of bilateral cooperation with Saudi Arabia, then it would be better,” he said.
Monterona said the deployment of medical attachés to Saudi Arabia should be made permanent. He said he had suggested this three years ago.
He said there was no need yet to suspend the deployment of OFWs to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries affected by the illness.
“For now, we advise our fellow OFWs in Saudi Arabia and in other Mideast countries to take extra care and properly attend to their health and personal hygiene,” he said.
There are around 1.5 million OFWs in Saudi Arabia. More than 25,000 OFWs are deployed each month to the kingdom. Jerome Aning
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