Around 23,300 Filipinos fight at the front lines of the United Kingdom’s and Ireland’s battle against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) since cases of the disease were initially reported on late January and early March, respectively.
According to a 2019 report published by NHS, Filipinos, who comprise around 19,000 of all NHS staff, are among the largest groups of NHS health workers third only to those who identified as British and Indians. In Ireland, around 4,300 Filipino nurses make up the Health Service Executive’s 65,000-strong health care work force.
“Even with personal protective equipment (PPEs), there is still that feeling of vulnerability for myself, our patients and their loved ones, colleagues, and our families. The traditional nurse-patient relationship has changed as the anxiety is not more from the persons and their loved ones getting care but from the key workers as well in these unprecedented times. How we are still able to show resilience, care, and reassurance is beyond me,” said Katrina Albarico, a nurse in Befast, Northern Ireland.
The efforts of Filipino front liners in the UK and Ireland have earned praises from the British and Irish.
“Amazing number of Filipinos working in the NHS and unsung heroes like so many. It’s worth bearing in mind when we talk about immigrants in this country, these are the immigrants currently saving people’s lives. Coming here and actually enriching our country and doing an amazing job,” said British broadcaster, Piers Morgan, who recognized the contribution of Filipinos in the NHS during a recent episode of Good Morning Britain.
However, as COVID-19 cases in the UK continue to escalate, as of 14 April, the Philippine Embassy in London has recorded at least 10 COVID-19-related deaths among Filipino front liners in the NHS and zero deaths among Filipino front liners in Ireland’s HSE.
“We are are deeply saddened by reports of Filipino staff who are either infected by COVID-19 or have succumbed to the disease. Our thoughts are with their loved ones. Filipino health workers have served tirelessly and courageously at the frontlines of the war against this pandemic, and their contribution to the ongoing effort to save lives is nothing but immense,” said Ambassador Antonio M. Lagdameo.
Athough the Philippine Embassy in London temporarily suspended its frontline consular services due to measures undertaken by the host government to stop the spread of the disease, the Embassy’s Assistance-to-Nationals team works round the clock to respond to inquiries and to assist distressed Filipinos, especially those who are infected with COVID-19.