Philippines Ambassador to Lebanon Bernardita Catalla died early this morning of coronavirus in Beirut, according to local media reports.
Catalla, 62, was being treated in a hospital in Beirut for chronic respiratory problems after she contracted coronavirus.
"With deep sadness, the Department of Foreign Affairs announces the untimely demise on April 2, 2020, of Ambassador Bernardita Catalla, Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon, from complications arising from COVID-19," a statement from the Philippines authorities said.
The statement added that Catalla "spearheaded the voluntary mass repatriation program of the Philippine Embassy in Beirut" in December 2019.
Catalla facilitated the return of at least 1,000 Filipino migrant domestic workers, most of them women, in December, after two months of Lebanese protests threatened the country's economic stability which most workers rely on.
The 62-year-old, along with the Philippines authorities, later suspended the deployment of Filipino workers to Lebanon in March over coronavirus fears.
Lebanon's Labour Minister Lamia Yammine tweeted, "with greet sadness and sorrow I received news of Ambassador Bernardita Catalla's death from coronavirus… I consider her death a loss for Lebanon and the Philippines, as she was working to enhance and strengthen the bonds between our two countries in various fields".
Catalla was a career diplomat who had served as ambassador to Lebanon since January 2018, before which she was Consul General in Hong Kong.
A tribute from the Philippines Foreign Affair department read: "Bernie, as Ambassador Catalla was fondly called, has always lent a helping hand, to her family, friends and colleagues. 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 foreign service."
The Philippine Ambassador's death raises Lebanon's toll to 16, with 494 confirmed cases, according to the health ministry.
One of the confirmed cases is an officer from the second Land Border Regiment who tested positive for coronavirus after returning to service from a holiday.
A statement from the army said that "the necessary precautionary measures have been taken and the regiment continues to perform the missions it is tasked with."
Adding that the anyone with whom the infected major has recently been in contact with will be quarantined.