From Geneva and Sofia to Rome and Barcelona, thousands of Europeans took to their balconies over the weekend to applaud doctors and nurses fighting the coronavirus outbreak as it continues to sweep across the continent.
Europe was last week marked as the new epicentre of the global pandemic amid a surge in infections and deaths that has forced national governments to take drastic containment measures.
Draconian lockdowns have been declared in Italy, France, Spain and Czech Republic, borders have been closed and travel restrictions enforced across a number of countries.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 153,000 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19, in 123 countries around the world – with nearly a third of those cases based in Europe.
Health services across the continent have subsequently found themselves stretched to breaking point.
In northern Italy, the region’s health care system has been overwhelmed by the outbreak. Doctors report having to choose which patients to treat and who to let die, with the country facing a shortage of beds, respirators and medics.
“This is a war,” said Massimo Puoti, the head of infectious medicine at Milan’s Niguarda hospital, one of the largest in Lombardy.
The photo of one nurse, Elena Pagliarini, who collapsed face down with her mask on in a hospital in the northern Italian town of Cremona, has come to symbolise the exhausting efforts of those fighting Covid-19.
“We are on our last legs, physically and physiologically,” Francesca Mangiatordi, a colleague who took the picture, told reporters last week.
Despite the restrictions, those under quarantine have done what they can to express their gratitude and support for medics on the frontline.
Following an appeal on social media, thousands of people across Europe came out on their balconies over the weekend to applaud and shine lights from their mobile phones.
“We all started clapping at 9 o’clock,” Irena Yankova from the northern town of Pleven, in Bulgaria, told national radio on Sunday. “Our neighbours did the same. And the neighbours living in the next block to us also started clapping. The feeling is indescribable!”
“We support the medics at the front line and all people who are close to the infected people.”
Citizens in Geneva followed suit, with one Twitter user posting a video in which applause can be heard ringing out through a residential area of the city.
“The whole town is clapping for its INCREDIBLE medical staff,” Safa Zouaoui wrote on Sunday. “You are our heroes!”
Similar displays of support were seen in Barcelona, Tirana in Albania, Gaia in Portugal and a number of Italian towns.
A video of people singing out of their windows on a neighbourhood street in Siena, Tuscany, went viral on social media, with many calling it a “beautiful” act of humanity.
“People of my hometown Siena sing a popular song from their houses along an empty street to warm their heart during the Italian Covid-19 lockdown,” wrote a Twitter user who posted the video.
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