PH embassy labor office in Saudi Arabia closes due to COVID-19

The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has been temporarily shuttered after several employees tested positive for the coronavirus, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) announced today.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac told ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo that while the physical office remains closed, the office will continue to provide services to Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). He did not say how many employees in the office were infected.

“This is not a permanent closure; this is just a suspension of operation[s]. But the services rendered to our countrymen will continue because while some [staff] have tested positive, [the] majority have tested negative of COVID,” Cacdac said.

He added that OFWs in the Middle-Eastern kingdom who are experiencing flu-like symptoms will be assisted by labor officers.

“They will be given aid, their basic hygiene requirements [will be attended to] and we will look into their situation, whether or not they need to be brought to the hospital…that will be our first measure,” the OWWA official said.

“As for repatriation…they will still need to go through proper medical protocol [in Saudi, before they go home to the Philippines]. Medical treatment still [comes] first and foremost,” Cacdac added.

In its statement last week, the POLO-Riyadh said that its operations were suspended on Sunday, and will remain closed “until further notice.”

It added that the infected staff will undergo quarantine and all “embassy personnel who recently came in contact with the infected POLO-Riyadh employees shall also undergo quarantine and COVID-19 testing to ensure the safety of the transacting public.”

The office said that it will continue to “respond to calls, offer consultation services to clients, and provide counseling to OFWs in distress.”

At least 2.3 million Filipinos are working in Saudi Arabia, according to a survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

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