Asian Americans are very well-represented in the ranks of healthcare workers in the United States, and serving on the front lines of the covid-19 health crisis in America is impacting them particularly. The medical and health media outlet STAT recently ran an article about the heavy toll on the Filipino American community, which provides 4% of America’s nurses.
From the article:
Filipinos are famous for, and justly proud of, their nursing acumen. The history of Filipino nurses in the United States is a long and complicated one, a symbiotic relationship borne of war and colonialism, and as some see it, racism and the exploitation of a critical medical workforce that has often been hesitant, because of cultural norms, to complain about poor workplace conditions. …
Filipino nurses [are] continuing to go unnoticed even as they take on the most dangerous and wrenching tasks in Covid-19 units, like bathing or suctioning intubated patients and comforting and holding those who are dying without family present. …
But many Filipino nurses feel they are treated as expendable even though their large numbers and work ethic, they say, keep the American health care system functioning. Many also complain about “the bamboo ceiling” that until recently kept Filipino nurses out of positions of leadership.
Read more here:
Nursing ranks are filled with Filipino Americans. The pandemic is taking an outsized toll on them
Author: Kevin W. Fogg
The government of Malaysia, relatively new after a realignment in parliament led to a surprise and controversial new administration at the end of February 2020, has moved to crack down on migrant workers—claiming this is part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, May 1, 2020, the Malaysian government office overseeing immigration conducted raids in areas of Kuala Lumpur with many migrant workers (story in the leading Malaysian government-aligned paper, New Straits Times), rounding up those claimed to be in the country illegally and laying the groundwork to expel them. Many have criticized the way these operations were conducted (story from the BBC), including an observer from Human Rights Watch who said they herding of large groups in close quarters was likely to increase the spread of the virus, not contain it, and Malaysian NGOs that say this will create a culture of fear (story from the online media outlet with old ties to the opposition MalaysiaKini). The government’s explanation (again from the New Straits Times) is that migrant workers would be hard to track and control if they became vectors of infection, so the government must act preemptively. The government is also saying (MalaysiaKini) that those migrants whose paperwork is not in order may leave without any penalties—as long as they get out of Malaysia.
This story has some resonances of the recent second wave of infections in Singapore, which centered on (legal) migrant workers with few health protections living in crowded dormitories (story from Bloomberg). It seems non-citizens are particularly vulnerable at this time because they do not receive health support from the governments in the places where they live, and this is more acute for low-income laborers.
Malaysia has been living under a Movement Control Order (basically, shelter-in-place orders) since March 18, 2020, but the Prime Minister has announced these will be loosened effective May 4 (story from Singapore’s state-backed paper, Straits Times). It is unclear how the round-up of migrant workers may be connected to loosening restrictions as Malaysia hopes to begin opening the economy.
Author: Kevin W. Fogg