While most people around the world have been told to stay home, there are those who have to keep going to work, and risk their health every day in order to do their jobs. There are also others who cannot afford to stop working. These are people who ensure our hospitals, grocery stores, and other essential services remain open, and the most vulnerable among us are cared for.
We met some of our readers and their friends and loved ones who remain on the frontlines of the fight against coronavirus, and asked them what challenges they face and what helps them to get through the day. Some of them have requested that only their first names be used.
Here are their stories.
Nina Denoyel, Nurse, France
“I keep working as it’s important for me to feel useful. Today I feel more useful than ever,” says Nina Denoyel, 25, who is a nurse from France. Her job takes her to hospitals, clinics, paramedical and social medical centres in and around Lyon.
“Despite the risks, it’s what I do best. But the stress is everywhere, all the time, in all its forms. The hardest part is to think that I might bring the danger home, where my partner is quarantined.”
“I don’t know how long I will keep going. But as long as I am not sick, or too exhausted, I will continue to work.”
Thibault, Psychiatric intern, France
Thibault is an intern in the psychiatry department at a French hospital. He has kept a diary for Euronews since the beginning of March.
“No masks to protect against coronavirus were being worn in the hospital for the first half of March, as no new pandemic-related rules had yet been established,” he remembers.
Thibault was the first person in his department to start wearing a mask, which later became mandatory for all his coworkers. A system of checks for COVID-19 symptoms was established in the middle of March, with patients having to be assessed by a general practitioner in an airlock before they could access the psychiatric services Thibault and his colleagues provide.
Now Thibault works remotely. He and his colleagues take care of requests from patients coming via a website, and direct them to psychiatrists who also work from home. A number of problems have been solved over time to help this process work, including getting access to patients’ files, which was essential, he explains.
“I feel quite good about the work I’ve been doing since then,” he says.
Iryna Bezzubenko, Flight attendant, Ukraine
Iryna flies with the Ukrainian airline SkyUp!. She and her colleagues are operating flights to bring Ukrainian citizens home after the borders were closed.
“Our passengers feel our smile even through the masks during this tense time. It feels very nice. Our team is trying to take care of the passengers’ comfort despite the circumstances,’ Iryna says.
Iryna says the crew tries to keep a positive attitude. They believe they are doing something worthy by reuniting people with their families, even though it involves health risks.
Nadia Djemai, Retirement home worker, France
Nadia Djemai, 52, is a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 5. She is responsible for the laundry service in a retirement home in France. Five inhabitants of this particular home have died. Some employees have tested positive and many others chose not to come to work to keep their families safe. “Every day is filled with distress now,” she says, “that’s what is the most exhausting”.
‘We are very worried for the inhabitants, who now feel isolated as their families cannot visit,” she says, and adds that staff are working to maintain family connections via video conferencing.
To protect themselves, Nadia and her colleagues had been covering their hair, and layering their clothing, besides having masks on. They’ve been given better uniforms since March 30.
Euguene Savvateyev, Journalist, Ukraine
Radio presenter Euguene Savvateyev, 30, volunteers to distribute food among Kyiv’s homeless. He and his wife Olga Makar are active in the ‘Youth for peace movement’ of the Community of Sant’Egidio (a Catholic social service organisation).
“These times are very difficult for homeless people. The railway stations are closed, the paid recycling spots are closed too. There is nobody to ask for donations. The hunger scares people as much as loneliness,” Olga says.
“No help is too small,” she continues. “Some bring 200-300 portions of food to the station. Others prepare 5 sandwiches and give them out on the way to the store.”
Jordi Díaz, Chemical plant mechanic, Spain
Jordi from kept working during the first weeks of Spain’s total lockdown, commuting 50 km each day to and from his job.
He had a letter from work that allowed him to travel, because remote work was not possible in his case. While on the job, it is mandatory to disinfect hands and use masks and gloves. It is also obligatory to keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres from other colleagues.
At home, Jordi says he only goes out to walk his dog for 15 minutes.
He had planned to keep working as long as suppliers and customers were open for business,. At the end of March, however, the factory was shut down. Now, Jordi is out of work.
Helena Llibre llonch, pharmacist
Helena Llibre’s job is in Catalonia, Spain. “We have to be open during the crisis because we are a health centre, and people come here to get their medicine. We serve patients while wearing protection like gloves and masks to stop both ourselves and them from being infected,” she told Euronews.
“We are worried about being infected and also about infecting our families. Anyhow we know its our job and we have to do it,” she added.
Hilda Younessian, Delivery person, Germany
Hilda Younessian started in her job job few years ago, to help finance her home, and care for her special needs son. It gives her a flexible schedule, and also helps her pay her bills and her tuition.
“During the strange days of the pandemic, I am still happy I can do this, despite the risks. Those smiles and kind faces are very important,” Hilda says, referring to her clients.
“I do protect myself. I keep a distance from colleagues, disinfect the car, wear masks and gloves. I put packages on doorsteps, ring the doorbell and distance myself. Clients have to lift their own packages now. They are still kind to me and sometimes seem even kinder than usual.”
Georgiy Pevtsov, Musician, France
Every evening, since the beginning of the lockdown in Lyon, France, Georgiy Pevtsov goes around his neighbourhood and plays his bagpipe.
“I need to practice and this way I can help keep the neighbourhood a bit more lively,” he says. Sometimes he will even put on a traditional bagpiper’s traditional. Georgiy says he chooses new tunes each day so his neighbours don’t get bored.
Since the lockdown began in France on March 16, people have been throwing their windows open at 8pm every day to clap for health professionals and others working on frontlines of the coronavirus crisis. Georgiy adds his music music to that applause.
Jaap Arriens, Journalist, and Suresh Goyal, Restaurateur, Poland
Jaap lives and works in Warsaw, Poland as a photographer and videographer. As many other journalists during this time, his work is on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“Any journalist working in these risky circumstances can take as many precautions as he or she likes,” he says. “However you also depend on the vigilance of the people you meet when covering events. Being in close proximity to them brings both known and unknown risks. You don’t know who is infected and who isn’t.”
Jaap thinks that despite the obvious risks, journalists need to keep the public informed. Access to accurate information is especially important in Central and Eastern Europe, where most people do not trust governments to be transparent, he adds.
On a recent assignment, Jaap filmed restaurant owner Suresh Goyal. His restaurant delivers free food to Warsaw’s hospitals for health workers treating COVID-19 patients.
Lyubov Berdnyk, Supermarket staff, Ukraine
Lyubov works in the dairy section of a supermarket in a residential area of Kyiv. “It’s very unusual to work in masks and gloves. We can’t go out on the shop floor without protection,” she says. “There is constant supervision. Work surfaces are now more regularly washed with some new chemicals.”
“It’s scary to see clients in masks, sometimes even children are wearing them. You don’t know if the person behind is ill or not.” she adds.
She also says a lot of people are buying up most products even tough prices have been rising. “There’s a big rush.”
Adina Agakishieva, Pastry chef, Czech Republic
Adina is the chief pastry chef at a French dessert shop in Prague. Face masks in public are now mandatory in the Czech Republic. She says her employer is giving away free masks to customers.