Ethiopian News, Current Affairs and Opinion Forum
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LONDON — The eight men moved to Britain from different corners of its former empire, all of them doctors or doctors-to-be, becoming foot soldiers in the effort to build a free universal health service after World War II.
Now their names have become stacked atop a grim list: the first, and so far only, doctors publicly reported to have died after catching the coronavirus in Britain’s aching National Health Service.
For a country ripped apart in recent years by Brexit and the anti-immigrant movement that birthed it, the deaths of the eight doctors — from Egypt, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Sudan — attest to the extraordinary dependence of Britain’s treasured health service on workers from abroad.
It is a story tinged with racism, as white, British doctors have largely dominated the prestigious disciplines while foreign doctors have typically found work in places and practices that are apparently putting them on the dangerous front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
“When people were standing on the street clapping for NHS workers, I thought, ‘A year and a half ago, they were talking about Brexit and how these immigrants have come into our country and want to take our jobs,’” said Dr. Hisham el-Khidir, whose cousin Dr. Adil el-Tayar, a transplant surgeon, died March 25 from the coronavirus in western London.
“Now today, it’s the same immigrants that are trying to work with the locals,” said el-Khidir, a surgeon in Norwich, “and they are dying on the front lines.”
By Tuesday, 7,097 people had died in British hospitals from the coronavirus, the government said Wednesday, a leap of 938 from the day before, the largest daily rise in the death toll.
And the victims have included not just the eight doctors but a number of nurses who worked alongside them, at least one from overseas. Health workers are stretched thin as hospitals across the country are filled with patients, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who this week was moved into intensive care with the coronavirus.