COVID-19 deaths break 100-mark

    From the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

    ELEVEN new deaths were reported on Thursday by the Department of Health, bringing the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to 107.

    Among the fatalities is the Philippine ambassador to Lebanon, Bernardita Catalla.

    “Service to the country has been the hallmark of Ambassador Catalla’s distinguished foreign service career. Bernie, as Ambassador Catalla was fondly called, has always lent a helping hand, to her family, friends and colleagues,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

    “Her ever-ready smile and infectious laughter may have been extinguished but her dedication to our country will always be there as a guiding light for all members of the Philippine diplomatic service,” it added.

    The DOH reported 322 new COVID-19 cases (2,633 total) and one new recovery, or a total of 51.

    The new disease has spread to 207 cases since its outbreak in China in December last year. Globally, there are at least 820,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with almost 40,600 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    The WHO is leading a global effort to find a cure for COVID-19, called “Solidarity Trial,” and the Philippines is joining it, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

    He said Dr. Marissa Alejandria of the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Disease will serve as the country’s representative while Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire will serve as DOH liaison officer.

    The “Solidarity Trial” seeks to compare the safety and effectiveness of four  drugs or drug combinations against COVID-19 with more than 45 countries expected to participate in the trial. A first batch of patients has been enrolled in the program.


    Bernardita Catalla, Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon (Photo by Middle East Monitor)

    Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Ambassador Bernardita Catalla passed away Thursday in a hospital in Beirut.

    Catalla is a veteran diplomat, having served in various foreign postings for 27 years. Prior to Lebanon, she served as consul general in Hong Kong where she oversaw the welfare of about 238,000 Filipinos living and working in the former British colony. She also served in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

    She also spearheaded the modernization of the passport processing of the DFA as well as repatriation program of distressed Filipino workers in Lebanon starting in December last year.

    Catalla is the first senior career diplomat to succumb to COVID-19.

    Locsin said he had convinced Catalla to extend her stay in Beirut before taking another diplomatic posting.

    “I extended her for a great job in a difficult post. I promised her Paris so she would hang on. But she just laughed. Now I must learn French. She saw me to say goodbye last March 9,” he added.

    Locsin also said she would recommend the Gawad Mabini and Sikatuna award for Catalla. –– With Ashzel Hachero