Twenty-three Filipinos in Dubai die from coronavirus infection

Health workers are pictured at the Dubai International Airport as travelers leave the Gulf Emirate, on May 7, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis.(AFP / Karim Sahib)
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Updated 09 May 2020

Twenty-three Filipinos in Dubai die from coronavirus infection

  • UAE authorities are providing free hospitalization to all infected
  • Envoy urges Filipinos to take precautions as restrictions in the UAE ease

MANILA: Twenty-three Filipinos in Dubai have died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), while many more have tested positive and are currently undergoing treatment, officials said on Friday.

The Philippine consul general in Dubai, Paul Raymund Cortes, told reporters that the consulate has received numerous calls from Filipinos who contracted the disease.

“We coordinated right away with the Dubai police and health authorities to get and bring them to the hospital for treatment and contact tracing,” Cortes said, adding that the UAE is offering hospitalization free of charge and many Filipinos have already recovered.

On Thursday, Philippine Ambassador Hjayceelyn Quintana announced the recovery of the youngest Filipino COVID-19 patient in the UAE — one-year-old Zaine — three weeks after both he and his mother tested positive for the virus.

According to the embassy, Zaine’s mother experienced very mild symptoms during isolation while the baby was asymptomatic but tested positive seven times.

“I have known Zaine since he was born three months premature in October 2018 and have been personally praying for him since then. I thank God for giving Zaine another miracle,” Quintana said in a statement released by the embassy.

She urged all Filipinos in the UAE to continue to take appropriate precautions now that restrictions in the Gulf country are starting to ease.

“Now is the time for continued caution and not for complacency. I therefore urge all Filipinos in the UAE to remain vigilant in exercising COVID-19 precautions such as hand-washing, wearing facial masks, social distancing and avoiding going outside unnecessarily,” she said.

While hospitalization in the UAE is free, many Filipino workers are struggling amid business shutdowns. Around 1,500 workers have requested help to return to the Philippines, Cortes said, adding that the worst affected are receiving food assistance from the consulate, the Filipino community and from the Dubai police.

The Department of Labor and Employment is also providing one-time cash aid to stranded overseas Filipino workers.

In the repatriation process, priority will be given to those with valid tourist or visitor visas who do not require clearance from the UAE government, Cortes said, adding that nationals in the UAE who are seeking assistance may contact the consulate on WhatsApp numbers 0565015755 and 0565015756.

Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

Updated 29 May 2020

Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

  • Intelligence, immigration officials investigating illegal facilities that catered mostly to foreigners

MANILA: The Philippines has intensified its crackdown on uncertified medical facilities offering treatment to people, particularly foreigners, with COVID-19 symptoms.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to help the Philippine National Police (PNP) track down foreign nationals behind the illegal clinics.
“It seems that clandestine medical clinics catering mostly to foreign nationals have sprouted and have been operating without proper authority,” Guevarra told reporters.
He said the facilities could have compromised the health of those who had undergone treatment.
“I’ll therefore ask the NBI and the BI to help the police in locating other similar underground clinics and the people running them, and if warranted, to file the appropriate charges against them,” he added.
Guevarra issued the order following a raid on Tuesday on an illegal clinic catering to Chinese patients in Makati City. Arrested in the operation were Chinese nationals Dr. David Lai, 49, and Liao Bruce, 41.
The clinic was reportedly operating without a permit, while the arrested did not have a license to practice medicine in the country.
Seized from the site were swab sticks, vials, syringes and boxes of medicine with Chinese labels — believed to be unregistered with the Food and Drug Administration.
Last week, law enforcers also swooped on a makeshift hospital for Chinese patients in the Fontana Leisure Park in Clark, Pampanga province.
The raid came after police received information that a COVID-19 patient was “undergoing medical attention” in a Fontana villa.
Arrested during the raid were Chinese nationals Liu Wei, who reportedly supervised the facility, and Hu Shiling, allegedly a pharmacist. Both were released on the same day without charge.
Immigration officials on Thursday said the duo had been placed on their watch list to prevent them from leaving the country while an investigation is underway.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said intelligence operatives will trace four of the patients, and are looking into the case of the Chinese nationals arrested in Makati.
“I’ve instructed our intelligence division to investigate if these alleged Chinese doctors are legally staying in the country,” he said.
“Should we find they violated our immigration laws, they’ll be charged with deportation cases before our law and investigation division,” he added.
“Even if no criminal charges were filed against them, they can be charged for immigration law violations if we can establish that they violated the conditions of their stay in the country.”
If criminal charges are filed, however, the BI will only deport them after their cases have been resolved or they have served their sentences, if convicted.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for the “immediate deportation and blacklisting” of the Chinese nationals because of their “blatant disregard of our laws.”
She added that while the Philippines is working hard to protect its people from the virus, “these criminals freely roam and pose a danger to public health.”