Europeans encouraging health workers’ nightly from the windows

A resident plays a trumpet in his balcony to thank paramedics' work at 20.00 hour like every other day in a residential building in San Sebastian, Basque Country, northern Spain. EPA-EFE/JAVIER ETXEZARRETA

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At a time of isolation, people in many European cities hit hard by the new coronavirus are taking at least a minute each night to come together in gratitude.

They stand at open windows or on balconies in Rome, Madrid, Paris, Athens and Amsterdam, singing, cheering and applauding even though they know their intended audience is too busy to listen.

The adulation is for the doctors, nurses and other health care workers putting themselves at risk on the front lines of the pandemic that is forcing most residents to stay home.

In Italy, where the number of virus-related deaths surpassed those in China, 2,900 health care providers have been infected, or 10% of the country’s total. Italian broadcasters regularly feature exhausted doctors and nurses begging people to stay home and expressing a sense of abandonment over inadequate protective gear.

Swiss applaud from their balconies to thank medical workers
A woman applauds from her balcony to thank medical workers in Geneva, Switzerland, 20 March 2020. People all over the alpine nation were invited to take part in the ‘Switzerland Says Thank You’ coordinated applause at 12.30 pm to express gratitude for the health professionals on the frontlines of the battle against the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. There have been similar initiatives in Italy and Spain. EPA-EFE/MARTIAL TREZZINI

The word spread mostly through the WhatsApp messaging service. In France, where the head of the national doctors’ federation picked up the virus from a diabetic patient, the call went out seemingly spontaneously by text messages hours after a nationwide lockdown went into effect Tuesday.

In Brussels and other cities, the intended audience for the nightly chorus of thanks was expanded to everyone working to keep essential services running in Belgium, such as firefighters, supermarket workers and trash collectors.

In Spain, people are singing Mónica Naranjo’s popular cover of the disco-era tune “I Will Survive” with the lyrics tweaked accordingly.

A 52-year-old nurse on Thursday became the first medical professional in Spain to die of COVID-19.


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