MANILA – Around 23,300 Filipinos fight at the front lines of the United Kingdom’s and Ireland’s battle against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) since the initial report of cases in both countries late January and early March, respectively, this year.
According to a 2019 report published by the National Health Service (NHS), Filipinos, who comprise around 19,000 of all NHS staff, are among the largest groups of NHS health workers, third to those who are identified as British and Indians.
In Ireland, around 4,300 Filipino nurses make up the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) 65,000-strong health care workforce.
“Even with personal protective equipment (PPE), 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 Belfast, 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, the Philippine embassy in London has recorded at least 10 coronavirus-related deaths among Filipino front-liners in the NHS and zero deaths among Filipino front-liners in Ireland’s HSE as of April 14, 2020.
“We 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 front lines of the war against this pandemic, and their contribution to the ongoing efforts to save lives is nothing but immense,” said Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Antonio Lagdameo.
Although the Philippine embassy in London temporarily suspended its front-line consular services due to measures undertaken by the host government to stop the spread of the disease, the embassy’s Assistance-to-Nationals (ATN) team works round the clock to respond to inquiries and to assist distressed Filipinos, especially those who are infected with Covid-19. (PR)