“Advising doctors on treating COVID patients is easier thanks to the European network”

Alexis Brings together medical experts from across Europe to share the best advice on how to treat patients with coronavirus France, Lyon

Before the virus struck, Professor Alexis Arzimanoglou was leading @ERN.EpiCARE, one of the EU’s 24 groups of medical specialists who meet online to decide the best way to treat patients with rare diseases or complex conditions. EpiCARE, for instance, looks at cases of rare and complex epilepsies. Drawing on their expertise, Prof. Arzimanoglou and his team are now busy advising doctors around Europe on how to handle anti-seizure drugs in case a patient with epilepsy also requires antiviral treatment against coronavirus. Collaboration established via EpiCARE made it much easier to organise webinars so that teams from countries like Italy, Spain and France, where the virus first struck, could share experiences with doctors across Europe and beyond. Based on the network model, the EU has also set up the COVID-19 Clinical Management Support System, a helpdesk that creates rapid connections across Europe between all healthcare professionals and hospitals involved in the management of coronavirus.

“We need to show solidarity, today more than ever”

Marie-Elisabeth Became responsible for outreach missions to homeless people France, Bordeaux

Marie-Elisabeth is an officer of the foreign affairs department of Bordeaux city hall during the day, but she still finds time to volunteer for the French Red Cross by night. In all her years of volunteering, Marie-Elisabeth has never seen something quite like Covid-19. She immediately decided to dedicate more time to the French Red Cross and became responsible for outreach missions to homeless people. “I pay them a visit three times a week. Our role is to give them food, sleeping bags and, perhaps most importantly, attention and care”, Marie-Elisabeth explains. “When I’m not doing that, I volunteer in the “guardian angels” local programme, which handles decontamination at the entrance of nursing homes”. Helping Member-States deal with public health emergencies is one of the priorities of the EU. Emergency help of EUR 800 million has so far been provided to the most affected countries.

“Distributing meals every day to the homeless was a way for us to pursue our mission as a public service”

Sandrina Helped convert a cultural space into a food distribution centre for homeless people in Paris France, Paris

It took only six years of activity for “Carreau du Temple” to become part of the beating heart of Paris. Each year, 300,000 people now come by to practice their favourite sport, enjoy a show, or visit a contemporary art exhibition. But what followed the Covid-19 outbreak was even more impressive. In the span of a week, the Carreu du Temple had begun to distribute 1 000 meals per day to the people most in need. “It was heartbreaking to have to cancel over 50 cultural and sport events, but it was even worse to realise how homeless people were impacted by the confinement. They were hungry and deprived from their usual food distribution sources”, Sandrina recalls. With its 1800 m2 location, Carreau du Temple was a perfect place for French association Aurore to ensure safe and smooth distribution of food. Sandrina believes this initiative was the perfect way to continue Carreau du Temple's mission as a public service.

“We think this is our duty, as virologists, to participate in the world's research efforts on Covid-19”

Caroline Refocused her EU-funded research efforts to study Covid-19 and identify treatment options France, Montpellier

The Covid-19 outbreak was a turning point for many virologists across Europe. Some of them, like Caroline, even decided to press pause on ongoing research efforts in order to focus on SARS-CoV-2 – the virus responsible for Covid-19. "My EU-funded project – called ANTIViR – aims to study natural defence mechanisms against influenza A and HIV-1. Other researchers from the IRIM institute and I decided it was our duty, as virologists, to participate in research efforts on Covid-19", Caroline explains. "I have another project called FluAttack which aims to identify drugs for influenza treatment. We are currently testing these, along with other molecules and natural extracts, to identify active compounds against Covid-19". It is only with EU support that such a shift has been possible. EU funding enables researchers to work effectively and react quickly, ensuring safer futures for all of us.

“This crisis only made older people more lonely and anxious. I needed to support them”

David Calls older people once a week to help them overcome their loneliness France, Paris

The lockdown is particularly difficult for older people, many of whom are considered at risk and live in isolation. “Paris en Compagnie” (Paris Accompanied) was conceived with these people in mind. The association, supported by Paris’ City Council, engages hundreds of volunteers in efforts to create bonds with older people in their communities. Once a week, the volunteers call older people to break their loneliness, listen to them and do their best to bring them some joy. David Reviriego is one of these volunteers: “I was particularly touched by stories of older people for whom COVID created further isolation, loneliness, and anxiety. The lockdown only worsened these issues, so for me it was only natural to get involved with Paris en Compagnie. If there is one positive thing coming out of this crisis, I believe it is the light it shined on the fate of older people as well as the need to act on it".

“Potential buyers can use our map to find and contact their local producers”

Celine and Ludovic Help local producers endure the COVID-19 lockdown France, Beaumontel

They’re not often spoken of, but have been bearing the brunt of the French lockdown. As outdoor markets, restaurants and school canteens were forced to close down, local producers were strongly impacted. In Normandy, the situation begged a question: how can citizens be encouraged to buy local in these difficult times? The Normandy Region and the local association responsible for Rollon – the local currency – found a solution in the form of a regional map, which has been available online since 8 April. The map, entitled “The Normans’ Meeting Point” (Au Rendez-Vous des Normands), provides contact details for over 1 200 local producers. Available products include fruits and vegetables, fish and sea food, meat, and dairy products. The map has been consulted more than 3000 times since its launch.

“I’m neither hero nor soldier. Just a caregiver serving patients in need of psychiatric care”

Brigitte Works as a nurse in the geriatric department of a psychiatric hospital France, Lyon

Brigitte works as a nurse in the psychiatric hospital of Vinatier à Bron, in Rhône, France. This hospital has been heavily reorganized to cater for Covid patients. Many of the existing patients have been sent home to free up beds for patients over 65 who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and require hospital care. Both patients and medical staff need to respect very strict rules, but many of Brigitte's patients have dementia, which creates additional problems as they do not retain the information well. Brigitte stresses that the human connection is essential when caring for these patients, but preventive measures, such as caregivers wearing masks, hinder communication. Brigitte and her colleagues are going the extra mile to offer the best care possible to their patients. As visits were restricted even before confinement started, caregivers began using phone and video-conferencing to put patients in touch with their loved ones.

“Caregivers, you're not alone. Our community psychologists, general practitioners, and psychiatrists are available 24/7”

Eric Enables medical staff on the front lines to receive psychological support by tele-consultation, through the SPS hotline France, Paris

Despite the encouraging figures in the fight against the pandemic, caregivers and other health professionals are facing increasing burnout. Increasing levels of anxiety and stress among social and medical workers have unfortunately become commonplace. In order to address this problem, the association SPS (Soins aux Professionnels en Santé) offers psychological support and assistance free of charge since November 2016. Their helpline, which is free, anonymous and confidential, has received more than 2,500 calls from all over France since March 23, and with nearly a third coming from the Île-de-France region. With a 100% response rate, the service provides 24/7 support for caregivers, nurses and doctors who are suffering from anxiety, exhaustion or work-related problems. After so many days and nights spent caring for patients, caregivers are now in need of our support. Our mission is to be there with them, to support and help them in the fight against COVID-19.

“The Cognac professionnals support a collective effort, consistent with their values”

Patrick Organizes Cognac producers to support hospitals, emergency services, pharmacists and laboratories France, Cognac

Cognac is one of Europe’s most famous drinks, prized around the world for its quality. Producers of this eau de vie — water of life — have joined forces to help save lives in Cognac region. They work with laboratories and pharmacists, supplying them with alcohol and other vital hand sanitiser ingredients. What’s more, they have donated money and protective masks to hospitals, laboratories, and the emergency services. The European Union shares their values of compassion and support for those in need.

“Alone, we could be going faster, but together, we will go further!”

Jérémy, Jean-Christophe and Virgile Help businesses hit by the consequences of the pandemic crisis France, Strasbourg

Jérémy, Jean-Christophe and Virgile are the founding partners of a company based in Strasbourg that created the 'Sauve Ton PRO !' (sauvetonpro.fr) platform, a free, non-profit website that helps merchants dealing with the closure of their businesses. Thanks to this initiative, consumers can support local organisations by purchasing vouchers that can be used at the end of confinement, providing cashflow to help them overcome the economic aspect of the crisis. In addition to initiatives like this one, Members of the European Parliament voted to make €37 billion available to support businesses and workers. To make sure we come out of this crisis stronger, the European Union is also already working on a robust, new budget for Europe.

“Medical workers need care too”

Marie Provides meals to hospital workers, bringing simple pleasures to people under terrible pressure France, Paris

As the marketing director of a company that has chefs at the heart of its business, Marie wanted to give something back to the medical professionals who are on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic. With the operation 'Les chefs avec les soignants' ('Chefs supporting medical workers'), she encourages all restaurateurs who keep on working (via meal delivery services) to participate and offer meals to the medical personnel. A good dinner plays a very important role in the daily routine of health workers, who are going through a very difficult time: conviviality with colleagues to decompress can make a huge difference. Many organisations have also joined the movement to provide ingredients for the meals, and local authorities as well as journalists are doing their part to support the operation. Across Europe, countries, regions and cities are reaching out to help their neighbours, while the European Union’s solidarity fund is making up to €800 million available to help our countries fight the coronavirus.

“Solidarity is the only way out of this crisis”

David Manages coordination of the emergency room France, Paris

David is a trained laboratory technician but is currently in the process of becoming a health executive. Although he is not a medical doctor, he serves at the hospital where he's completing his training, helping to manage coordination at the emergency room. In the current situation, the need for non-medical personnel is critical: taking care of tasks like restocking, organisation, orientation of patients and other duties alleviates the workload of doctors and nurses, who can thus focus on their patients' health. David, like many others across Europe, embodies the solidarity that people and institutions need to manage this crisis.