COVID-19 proved to be a behemoth hurdle many just weren’t ready for, with some countries struggling to keep up. Enter Europe’s heroic frontliners and the massive joint effort that saw a whole continent through this historic moment.
Lovin Malta sat down with four of these everyday heroes, representing incredible initiatives that have helped inform, diagnose and assist their communities in Malta, Finland and Cyprus.
In Malta, a specialist cardiologist became a vlogger to inform and comfort the nation.
Three months ago, as COVID-19 landed on our shores, Dr. Melanie Zammit Burg took to social media to break it all down to her friends and family.
Soon enough, Melanie’s video on what “flattening the curve” meant (along with an explanation of a whole slew of phrases we’ve had to get used to this year) got over 45,000 views, as thousands flocked to her regular videos for her informative updates and soothing voice.
On 9th June, as the country entered a new phase of normality, Melanie uploaded “one final video“, thanking everyone from her colleagues to her followers, admitting that, against all odds “COVID-19 brought the best out of us.”
In Finland, a young GP took to Instagram to answer thousands of people’s questions.
Like many doctors around the continent, Anni Saukkola had to adapt to not being able to see and visit patients during the pandemic.
The young Finnish GP’s solution was straight out of the 21st Century, with Anni taking to the Instagram page she had set up just over a year ago to answer many people’s questions on the current situation.
Soon enough, Anni amassed over 25,000 followers, with thousands of people tuning in to her IGTV show where she offered everyone a “daily dose of epidemiology”.
Meanwhile, a Gozitan nurse was touched and overwhelmed by the support local frontliners received.
Daniel Said is a first responder who has been in the thick of it for years, but the young Gozitan nurse wasn’t ready for the massive support he and his colleagues received during this whole pandemic.
Taking to Facebook multiple times to congratulate his fellow frontliners and the whole population for their support through these tough times, Daniel frequently provided a ray of hope amidst everyone’s gloomy newsfeeds.
“It’s an honour to serve this country,” Daniel said all the way back in March, persisting with important positivity for weeks on end.
In Cyprus, a retiring doctor felt the need to return to his practice during the virus’ peak.
“I was hoping to finish my medical career in another, quieter way,” Dr. Marios Kyriazis informed his friends and family members on Facebook back in March. “But I’m doing this for my mother who’s been scared and isolated for 15 days. And for all mothers.”
In the following weeks, Marios helped out his country’s healthcare frontliners, forgoing his retirement for the greater good. His touching Facebook post reached thousands of people through their positive feedback and inspired shares, but his work or updates didn’t stop there.
Only recently, as the situation Cyprus became more manageable, did Marios finally slow down and stop providing immediate assistance on his nation’s frontlines, proving to be an essential and heartwarming asset in the face of the pandemic’s massive challenge.
As European heroes emerged out of the harrowing experiences, the European Union brimmed with its own slew of tremendous initiatives.
All over the continent, in countries like France, Germany and Portugal, MEPs went back to their old work as doctors, serving their nations in a unique and vital way.
“When you take the Hippocratic oath, it is for life,” French MEP and gynaecologist Dr Chrysoula Zacharopoulou said of the initiative. “During such a crisis, I couldn’t stay at home and just watch. My role is to be here, with my colleagues.”
Concurrently, in a joint act of solidarity, EU Member States helped each other out with everything from PPE to human resources.
Hungary delivered nearly two million masks and some 200,000 gloves to over 10 neighbouring countries.
Slovakia sent masks and disinfectant to Italy, while offering ambulances, masks and blankets to Ukraine under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Latvia sent nearly half a million masks to Estonia under the same mechanism, offering a further 60,000 face masks to Lithuania.
All over the European Union, countries flew in patients from hard-hit neighbours, helping out by mobilising fleets of ambulances, helicopters and planes during the medical emergency.
Meanwhile, as Italy felt the hardest initial brunt of the virus, doctors and nurses from Romania, Poland and Germany travelled to various hospitals to help out, offering their nations’ own expertise and experience to aid their Italian brothers and sisters.
As far as mobilising vital funds to fight the pandemic go, the European Union made sure to put its money where its mouth is.
The EU made billions of euros available to support healthcare in the EU countries, channelling unused funds and contributing and collecting billions worldwide for vaccine research.
In April, the European Parliament approved €3 billion in direct aid, much-needed aid essential for many hard-hit countries like Italy. This was one of the EU measures aiming to support healthcare providers in member states to help with everything from a vital boost in treatment and testing capacities, to financing the recruitment of additional healthcare professionals and the construction of mobile field hospitals.
While all of this was happening, EU states also got together to pool in their buying-power, making joint purchases of masks, ventilators and other necessary equipment.
The European Parliament also backed new rules allowing the EU Solidarity Fund to cover health emergencies, making a further €800 million available for member states this year.
Meanwhile, the EU provided its own brand of support to national health systems across the continent, providing access to essential supplies via the RescEU medical stockpile. Increased production of the medical devices and personal protective equipment was essential, and the EU supported this by making available the European standards for it available and for free, making sure it is safe.
Shock, panic, loss and uncertainty have dominated headlines worldwide for most of 2020, but Europe’s frontliners have not faltered, offering essential and inspired help to the continent.
And it is thanks to everyday heroes like Anni, Daniel, Melanie and Marios – and countless others – that we can finally start planning for the light at the end of the tunnel.