Are my goggles on properly? It’s the question that worries emergency medicine doctor Marco Garrone every single day.
Simple pieces of protective gear are now all that stands between frontline health workers and exposure to COVID-19.
“Obviously we’re scared. We have the fear of being contaminated,” Dr Garrone told me, on a rare day off from work at a Turin hospital.
“I disinfect my glasses, my keys, my smartphone. I get home, I tell my kids not to hug me until I have a shower.”
And health workers across Europe are falling ill. They account for one-in-seven cases of COVID-19 in Spain. Tragically, at least 36 doctors have died so far in Italy.
Watch the full episode of Culture Clash about health workers on the COVID-19 frontline
“They go away, they cry, and they come back” said Dr Julio Mayol, summing up the mood among his staff. As the director of one of Madrid’s biggest hospitals, his teams are on the frontline of a crisis that’s worsening by the day.
The faster the virus spreads the greater the risk that our hospitals will collapse under the pressure – and medical teams will be forced to work in ever more dangerous conditions.
Social media has been flooded with doctors and nurses pleading with the public to obey the lockdowns, to stop the spread of the virus and buy them vital time.
“The problem is that you walk around because you’re young and you are not going to get a bad disease. But then two days later you see your grandfather or your grandmother in the ICU on a ventilator,” Dr Mayol said.
“So it’s not about me, it’s about us. This is a problem for society and we have to respond as a society, not just as individuals,” he added.
But for the few who aren’t listening – millions of others are heading the call.
#Istayhomefor has trended around the world as people explained why they were self-isolating.
And for those still doubting whether they need to follow the rules, Dr Garrone had one simple message.
“This time it is for real. Stay home. Stay safe.”