Covid-19: A timeline of its impact on the Filipino-British community

Text: Anoop Bhuller
Graphics: Jeamy Navarro-Schrank

The coronavirus has affected many communities. Filipinos have been particularly badly hit. Piecing together reports and research, it is clear that a large proportion of healthcare workers who have died in the UK are of Filipino origin.

Through our research, we have created a timeline that pieces together the key events that have impacted the Filipino community during the outbreak.

To do this we have cross-referenced news reports from both local and national media outlets, as well as posts from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Campaign and community organisation websites were also used to gather information. 

Some deaths were reported by the media late, and some not at all. But to the best of our knowledge, this is an accurate timeline of events.

The origins

The main events

Covid-19:  The timeline in detail

3rd April – First two Filipino healthcare workers die

Elvira Bucu, 50, was an NHS healthcare assistant at Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot. She died after testing positive for coronavirus at her home while she was self-isolating. John Alagos, 23, was a nursing assistant at Watford General Hospital. John’s colleagues told his mother he had not been wearing adequate protective clothing. At the time of his death he was believed to have been the youngest UK medical worker to die from the virus. His death is also believed to have been the first of a Filipino healthcare worker to be reported in the UK media.

Credit: Facebook/John Alagos

5th April – Oxfordshire Filipino community effort

FilCom Oxford – the Filipino Community of Oxfordshire – distributes batches of food and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the NHS.

10th April – Third nurse to die in Wales

Leilani Medel, 41, was a hospital nurse in Bridgend, South Wales. Her husband, Johnny Medel Junior, was reunited with their daughter Carmina in June after being treated for two months in the hospital for “severe coronavirus.”

20th April – Philippine Ambassador to the UK appeal

Ambassador Lagdameo urges the NHS to “ensure that those heroes that put their lives on the line for us all are properly protected and equipped as they do their job.”

24th April – UK broadcasters start to ask questions

Questions begin to be raised in the national media about why Filipino healthcare workers are disproportionately dying. ITV becomes the first national network to discuss the high death rates of Filipino medical staff. This is followed by Sky News on the 28th April and the BBC’s Newsnight on 1st March. 

Early May – New group created to provide assistance to Filipinos

The support group, Filipino Unite, is created in response to the impact of the worsening pandemic. It aims to help Filipino individuals and families affected by the UK outbreak. 

10th May – 40th Filipino Healthcare worker to die in the UK

Rustom Carpo had worked in a nursing home in Scotland for more than ten years.

12th May – Fundraisers start walking

Balik Bayani fundraisers walk, run and swim nearly 7,000 miles to raise money for the families left behind by Filipino frontline workers. So far, more than£20,000 has been raised.

16th May – Important new data

A new analysis sheds fresh light on the impact of the virus on UK Pinoys. The Press Association reports that 23 of the 173 healthcare workers that have died of Covid-19 so far are of Filipino origin – around 13% of all healthcare deaths. Researchers call for the recording of ethnicity on death certificates to better understand deaths from Covid-19. 

19th May – New Filipino helpline

The NHS sets up a new telephone support line to support Filipino health care workers.The line is managed by Tagalog-speaking counsellors and support workers.

22nd May – Anti-hate crime campaign

The End the Virus of Racism campaign is launched. It’s a new campaign created by London-based Kanlungan Filipino Consortium volunteer, Alvin Carpio. It aims to tackle the rise of hate crime against south and east Asian communities during Covid-19.

14th June – 57th Filipino healthcare worker dies

Rizal Manalo, a 51-year-old father-of-two who worked at the Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire dies. Staff pay respect to him with a moving tribute on the 3rd July.

16th June – Government sees “racism” as factor in BAME coronavirus deaths 

Public Health England (PHE) releases its second report looking at the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities. It recognises the role of racism in the higher incidence of people from minority ethnic backgrounds contracting and dying from coronavirus. 

24th June – Kanlungan Filipino Consortium report

An extensive new report is released focusing on the impact of the outbreak and lockdown in the UK on precarious Filipino migrants and their vulnerability to Covid-19. It includes personal stories from those who have been affected by the pandemic. 

2nd July – Filipino Nurses Association UK is founded 

The Association was created during the pandemic for Filipino nurses to discuss issues of collective interest. They can then signpost members to the right place to help resolve their issues.