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Frontline health workers set up safety shield against COVID-19

A message of thanks for healthcare workers is displayed on the window of the Brooklyn Hospital Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the United States, April 24, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

“My babies are too young to read it now. And they’d barely recognize me in my gear. But if they lose me to COVID I want them to know Mommy tried really hard to do her job,” Cornelia Griggs, a New York pediatric surgeon, wrote in an emotional post to her toddlers in March.

A mother on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, Griggs is using her sacrifice and courage as a powerful teaching moment for her children. The viral tweet received about 103,000 retweets and 530,000 likes within 24 hours.

According to the latest figure of Johns Hopkins University, coronavirus infections have risen to nearly 2.9 million worldwide along with more than 200,000 deaths.

Griggs, along with thousands of fearless medical workers across the world, has been putting up an arduous and brave fight against COVID-19, trying to turn the tide on the pandemic which knows no borders and recognizes no races.

Many are working long hours, with their own lives upended by the unprecedented health crisis; some have volunteered to help out without any second thoughts; some have even lost their lives on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus.

Medical staff work in the ICU of Istituto Clinico Casalpalocco in Rome, Italy, March 25, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Roberto Stella, a general practitioner aged 67, died on March 11, the first of many doctors to succumb to the coronavirus in Italy.

He lived in Busto Arsizio in Lombardy, an Italian region that has been hit particularly hard by the outbreak, and had planned to step down from his job as a doctor and president of the Order of Physicians in Varese, a city just north of Milan, at the end of this year.

Stella was among the first to urge the government to pay attention to the inadequate personal protective equipment for healthcare staff.

He asked his medical staff to be careful and press on with their work when they had run out of face masks and gloves.

He was a true doctor who worked hard until the end, said Alessandro Colombo, a colleague and friend of Stella.

“His death got the attention of Italian doctors … It made doctors realize that the coronavirus was something to be taken seriously,” Angelo Testa, president of the National Union of Independent Doctors, told Xinhua.

The coronavirus has claimed more than 26,000 lives in Italy, one of Europe’s worst-affected countries. A total of 144 medical workers have died of the coronavirus in Italy to date, according to doctors’ associations and unions.

About 17,000 health care workers have been infected, more than two-thirds of whom are women, according to the country’s public health institute.

Members of Chinese medical expert team to Serbia visit a clinic in Belgrade, Serbia, April 11, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Also in Europe, Serbian doctors observed a minute of silence on April 15 to mourn Miodrag Lazic, a famous surgeon who had died from an infection related to the coronavirus.

Lazic, 65, director of the Emergency Center in the City of Nis, had been on a ventilator because his condition was serious.

The Municipality of East Sarajevo fulfilled his last wish by playing the Serbian military song “March on the Drina” to honor their beloved doctor.

Lazic was “on the front line, until the very end … until the moment when he found out that he himself had contracted the virus that, for months, had been relentlessly taking people’s lives,” said a statement issued by the Clinical Center of Nis.

“A man who was honorable, courageous and proud, side by side, on the front lines, stood by the Serbian army, in all the wars that struck our country and our people. A man, a doctor, a soldier who saved more than 1,000 lives on the battlefield,” the statement added.

The specialist in surgery was a volunteer during the wars in former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, and had written a book entitled The Diary of a War Surgeon.

So far, Serbia has reported 6,630 cases with 125 deaths, with the country being in a state of emergency since March 16.

Photo taken on April 1, 2020 shows a ward of the upgraded Wilkins Hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe. [Photo/Xinhua]

Across the Mediterranean, Soman Mudariki, who works at Wilkins Hospital in Harare, is among Zimbabwe’s frontline medical workers who are risking their lives to care for the sick.

Two weeks after the coronavirus pandemic reached the landlocked country in southern Africa, Mudariki tested four confirmed cases.

He said never before has his family been as worried about his safety at work.

“My son and daughter are not at ease. They keep asking questions and want to understand how dangerous coronavirus really is,” Mudariki said, adding that his family has remained a strong pillar of support.

After reporting its first case on March 20, Zimbabwe has recorded 31 cases to date. The government has extended the country’s lockdown by a further two weeks to May 3.

With the virus not sparing anyone in its path, Mudariki knows the importance of medical workers being properly equipped when tending to patients.

“It is a hot zone that we are working in and it requires a meticulous process, from donning, doffing, to testing patients. The process needs to be thorough to make sure you do not carry the virus to other patients or workmates,” said Mudariki.

Nurses are also exposed to these risks. Among them is Cynthia Shatei, leader of the Zimbabwe Young Nurses’ Association.

“We value the sanctity of human life, but at times we fear for our dear life because the monster (COVID-19) is real. We believe that nursing is a calling, so we had to step in as nurses,” she told the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper.

Shatei said her efforts against the virus were motivated by patriotism, while the disease needs to be confronted head-on for the common good.

National Health Service (NHS) staff members applaud outside the Royal Liverpool University Hospital during the weekly “Clap for Our Carers” campaign in Liverpool, Britain, April 23, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

A medical staff member takes samples of a child at a COVID-19 testing point in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 15, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Medical workers take care of COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Barcelona, Spain, April 7, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

A medical worker of a test station takes samples of a woman for COVID-19 infection test in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 3, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

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