MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine embassy in the United Kingdom (UK) expressed "deep concern" over the death of 20 Filipino nurses who were ill with the coronavirus and were among health workers battling the outbreak in frontline hospitals.
The number of deaths make up for nearly half of at least 50 Filipinos who died due to the disease in the UK, the Philippine embassy said. Among the deaths were 3 undocumented immigrants, it added.
"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 Lagdameo said in a statement on Monday, April 20 (Tuesday, April 21, Philippine time).
The embassy brought to the attention of the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office calls of Filipino nurses to provide more personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to ensure their safety when treating patients.
With close to 19,000 Filipino nurses working in the UK's National Health Service – the third largest group after British and Indians – the embassy said the deaths of the Filipino nurses "caused a stir" among the public. (READ: Working with fear and anxiety: Filipino nurses as UK frontliners vs coronavirus)
Coronavirus cases in the UK continue to increase, with over 127,000 confirmed cases and at least 16,500 deaths as of Tuesday. The situation means Filipino nurses, among other health workers, are forced to contend with inadequate protective gear and changing government guidelines.
The embassy said majority of those who died in England worked in hospitals.
The deaths of the Filipino nurses prompted several fundraising initiatives from Filipino groups to support health workers battling the coronavirus. The embassy said efforts include providing face masks and hot meals.
The embassy gave assurances its consular section and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office are coordinating closely with Filipino groups to deliver assistance and monitor those affected by the disease.
Over 1,000 Filipinos overseas have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday. The confirmed cases include 153 deaths and 269 recoveries.
The Philippines has recorded at least 6,599 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 437 deaths and 654 recoveries. The number of infections worldwide has surpassed 2.4 million, while over 170,000 people have died across 193 countries and territories. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com