DFA: 23,000 Filipino health workers battling COVID-19 pandemic in UK, Ireland


Posted at Apr 21 2020 02:06 AM | Updated as of Apr 21 2020 05:05 AM

LONDON (UPDATED) -- Around 23,000 Filipino health workers are in the frontlines of the United Kingdom and Ireland fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

In the 2019 report published by UK's National Health Services (NHS), Filipinos, which are around 19,000 of its staff, are among the largest groups of health workers, the DFA said in a statement. 

In Ireland, around 4,300 Filipino nurses make up the Health Service Executive's (HSE) 65,000 health care workforce.

"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," said Katrina Albarico, a nurse in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

"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," she added.

Filipinos frontliners' efforts in both countries earned praise from the community, the DFA said.

“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.

With the rising number of cases in UK, the Philippine embassy in London has tallied at least 20 COVID-19-related fatalities among health frontliners the in NHS.

"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 M. Lagdameo.

The Philippine Embassy in London has raised to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) the concerns of Filipino nurses in the UK.

The embassy mentioned the nurses' needs such as more personal protective equipment (PPE), especially for those who are assigned in COVID-19 wards.

As of Monday, at least 20 Filipino healthcare workers have died due to COVID-19 according to the embassy. 

"The figure represents around 50% of at least 50 Filipinos--by citizenship or ethnicity--who died of the disease, including three (3) who are undocumented immigrants," it said.

“We are deeply concerned about the deaths of Filipino health workers who sacrificed their lives as the world continues to fight this vicious disease. They put their lives on the line so that others may heal, live, and be reunited with their loved ones,” Ambassador Antonio M. Lagdameo said.

The agency said that majority of those who died worked in hospitals across England.