Sunday

20th Sep 2020

Coronavirus

Coronavirus crisis deepens, but solidarity blooms

  • Communities are mobilising to deliver medical supplies and groceries to elderly people and other vulnerable groups (Photo: Syed Zaheer)

Despite the horrific impact of the coronavirus on the EU's economy and daily life of its citizens, solidarity is spreading across communities in all member states - with offline and online initiatives.

"Small acts of kindness, compassion, solidarity are helping to spread hope through all Europe: from volunteering to balcony singing," the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told MEPs at the last extraordinary plenary.

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"By each doing our little bit, we can truly help each other a lot," she added.

Volunteers across Europe, ranging from individuals and small-scale shops to big companies, have been sewing masks and protective equipment to increase the amount of material available for health workers and the public.

Likewise, communities are mobilising to deliver medical supplies and groceries to elderly people and other vulnerable groups - some use traditional methods, while others have created apps and groups in social media to coordinate the requests.

Meanwhile, the initiative of the public applause for health workers has been mimicked in other countries in Europe - including Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, and the UK.

Last week, nearly 8,000 doctors volunteer to support the frontline in the worst-hit regions in Italy - especially in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna - as hospitals are under huge strain.

Teams of Cuban, Chinese and Russian doctors are also on the ground to support the most-affected country of the bloc.

After Germany decided in 2015 to open borders to nearly one million refugees, now the government is calling on the refugee community to support hospitals in Saxony - the heartland of the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

"Foreign doctors who are in Saxony but do not yet have a license to practice medicine can help with corona[virus] care," read the Facebook appeal.

Over 300 volunteers had responded to the call, including "many foreign doctors whose licensing procedures are not yet completed, whose help is very welcome," Reuters reported.

In Spain, scientists from a university in Madrid have organised a microbiological laboratory for coronavirus testing and they are calling for qualified volunteers to scale up the efforts.

Additionally, volunteers from the Red Cross have created two field hospitals with 200 beds in Madrid, where hospitals are already collapsing due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases.

"The objective is to support the services attending to non-serious cases so that these hospitals can concentrate on attending patients who are seriously ill with coronavirus," said Paula Farias, the coordinator of the Red Cross in Madrid.

Likewise, more than half-million volunteers signed up to support the UK's national health service, after prime minister Boris Johnson said last week that "they will be absolutely crucial in the fight against this virus".

France has also recruited 100,000 volunteers through the initiative 'Je Veux Aider' (I Want to Help), while the minister for agriculture, Didier Guillaume, called on jobless people to help farmers.

Another initiative, which so far has more than 35,000 volunteers, the crowdfight COVID-19, is trying to scale up efforts of the scientific community, making available resources for researchers and managing tasks for volunteers to fight the coronavirus outbreak in Europe and beyond its borders.

Also, the Hungarian liberal MEP Katalin Cseh, who is a trained physician, said she applied to the call of the Hungarian Ambulance Services to join the fight against coronavirus.

"Though my life took a different direction, I believe we all should lend a helping hand if we can," she wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, young volunteers are packaging fruits at the local food bank in the Netherlands - a job that was usually carried out by older people.

As more IT systems of health centres are being targeted by cybercriminals and hackers, many have also volunteered to stop cyberattacks and protect the networks.

One of the initiatives focussed on protecting European networks is called Cyber Volunteers 19 (CV19), which now counts with over 3,000 volunteers.

Additionally, musicians, museums and theatres are providing online services to entertain the public, while many telecom operators are allowing people to stream content for free during the quarantine.

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