Family of Chinese migrant worker who died did not know he had Covid-19

Mr Wu Liyou died of complications two weeks after he was discharged. PHOTO: FAMILY OF WU LIYOU

SINGAPORE - Every day foreign worker Wu Liyou would make a video call to Feidong county in Anhui province to chat with his family.

The 41-year-old China national had been doing it since April.

But last Thursday (June 4), his call did not come.

Instead, his family received a call from his Singapore employer, informing them that Mr Wu had died.

They were stunned, speechless with grief and in disbelief, as he did not tell them he had been infected by the coronavirus nor did they have any hint that he was ill.

Mr Wu, who had worked in Singapore for the past 10 years, became the youngest person in Singapore to succumb to Covid-19 last Thursday.

He died of complications two weeks after he was discharged, and was cremated on Tuesday. The coroner certified the cause of death as a massive pulmonary thromboembolism following the Covid-19 infection.

Mr Wu's son Feixiang told The Straits Times over the phone from China that his father looked healthy in all their video conversations, and had never mentioned having any health problems.

The family knew there was widespread infection in the foreign worker dormitory where Mr Wu lived, said the 22-year-old.

But his father, he added, did not tell them he had Covid-19, but that he had been moved to various locations, including a cruise ship, for quarantine purposes.

When they last spoke to him last Wednesday, he was on the cruise ship and appeared well, even asking after another family member in China who was sick, said his son.

The following day, he was told his father had collapsed suddenly on the cruise ship.

A photo of Mr Wu Liyou with his wife and older son Feixiang. PHOTO: FAMILY OF WU LIYOU

"My father was very healthy when he left China, but now he's coming home in an urn," added Mr Wu Feixiang, who is the elder of two sons.

"My mother has been in a daze for the past few days, none of us can believe it," he said, adding that his grandparents had not been told that their son had died.

The family is afraid the couple would not be able to accept the news, as they are in their 70s and have a host of medical problems.

"There is no greater tragedy than to have parents send off their child," he said, quoting a Chinese saying.

Mr Wu Feixiang is also worried about the family's finances, as his father had taken care of most of their expenses and was paying off some debts.

His mother had undergone surgery to remove a tumour in her uterus, and the family had to borrow money to pay her medical bills. His younger brother, who is 12, is still in school, he said.

His father scrimped and saved most of his salary as a metal worker, and sent home around $2,000 every month to pay their bills, he added.

Now, he will have to take over these responsibilities, with his pay as a hairstylist.

His father's employer said it will give a small sum to the family to help them tide over this period, he added.

The Migrant Workers' Centre is also assisting the family.

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Separately, a group of Chinese nationals here are raising funds for Mr Wu's family. The informal group is led by senior engineer Xiong Gang, 47, and they are also helping the family of the 51-year-old Chinese migrant worker who died here of Covid-19 on May 31.

Mr Wu Feixiang said his family's priority is to ensure his father's ashes are laid to rest in their hometown in Anhui.

They are waiting for his ashes to be brought home as flights are infrequent, he said.

In the 10 years that the late Mr Wu worked in Singapore, he returned home only once every one or two years, said his son.

"I've always thought that my father would retire and rest at home when we are all grown up," he said.

"But now, he can no longer watch us grow, witness our graduation ceremonies and our weddings, or even carry his grandchildren," he said.

"We didn't even have the chance to say goodbye to him."

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