“My business received help thanks to the EU”

Isabel Kept her business alive thanks to EU help Spain, Cabo de Palos

On 13 March the Spanish region of Murcia closed its borders to try and contain the spread of coronavirus. With that very necessary step came a complete and sudden halt to the tourist industry on which the area thrives. As the owner of a diving centre, Isabel Laguardia was particularly hard hit. She had to close the centre and put on hold all her plans to employ staff for the usually busy Easter holiday and summer season. The EU acted quickly to help protect small businesses like Isabel’s. New legislation made the rules on state aid more flexible. The Spanish government can now offer businesses financial support more quickly so they can avoid laying off staff during the coronavirus outbreak. Such rules enable Member States to take swift and effective action to support citizens and companies, in particular small businesses, facing economic difficulties due to COVID-19. All Member States will be able to set up schemes to grant up to EUR 800 000 to a company to address its urgent needs.

“I still fear for my restaurant but I'm not giving up”

Antoine Doing his best to revive his restaurant while dealing with social distancing measures Spain, Valencia

Salad Planet is a snack bar striving to provide customers with healthy, fresh and local products. Its “salad bar” concept has been an instant success. It quickly became a place to be for the people of Valencia. For Antoine, owner of Salad Planet, the lockdown was the worst thing that could happen. “Following the outbreak I was forced to close my restaurant from 15 March to 10 May. My employee and myself had no choice but to apply for temporary unemployment benefits,” he recalls. Reopening the restaurant hasn’t been a walk in the park either. First relying on takeaway only, the restaurant could finally open its doors again. It started with a terrace at 50 % capacity and then with the restaurant itself, which currently runs with 30 % occupancy. “Salad Planet is at the centre of Valencia’s business quarters, so I’ve lost most of my regular clientele who will be teleworking until September. I’m still working on my own as we speak, as my employee is still under temporary employment,” Antoine says.

“This is about helping our people, using our knowledge to serve the community”

Bibiana, Balbina and Pilar Started producing masks and gowns using their shoe making machines Spain, Elda y Petrer, Alicante

Hundreds of shoemakers – known as "aparadoras" in Spain – are united in a coordinated effort. From their homes and with their own machines, they sew masks and gowns for the people who need them without asking for anything in return. What started out as an experiment following the coronavirus outbreak now results in the production of hundreds of masks every day. These female shoemakers give their hands, knowledge and time, and challenge themselves to overcome technical difficulties. "When using the machine we use to sew shoes, more effort and precision was required as the fabric of the masks was too thin and easily ripped apart" says Pilar. Despite this, the group did not give up when they heard that Alicante’s mask stocks were depleting. They continue to receive donations of sterilised materials, and remain committed to overcoming any obstacle that comes their way.

“We will keep fighting to stop these infections”

Ainhoa Works as a doctor in a nursing home because of the Covid outbreak Spain, Valencia

Ainhoa, 26, was just about to start her specialisation in obstetrics and gynaecology when the process was put on hold because of the pandemic. As she wanted to join the fight against COVID-19, she decided to work as a doctor in a nursing home. In Spain, many deaths linked to coronavirus have taken place in nursing homes, where some of the most vulnerable live together. There is still a lot to do in this fight, but Ainhoa takes comfort in knowing that no cases have been reported in the nursing home where she works. Although this is a temporary job and she will soon start her residency in a hospital, Ainhoa considers this to be a fulfilling experience both professionally and personally, because the values and lessons taught by the elderly make her grow as a person. "We will soon get out of this. We will manage it" she says.

“I learned to use the sewing machine because I had to help!”

Elena Produced almost 4 000 masks Spain, Madrid

When the pandemic hit Spain, Elena felt she needed to help the doctors and nurses fighting to save lives. She quickly taught herself to sew on her mother's old sewing machine and started producing masks out of fabric that she had at home. After finishing her first 25 masks, she delivered them to a nursing home in her neighborhood. Then she learned that a neighbour had created a group in which each member promised to sew 200 masks in 5 days. The police brought them the material, collected the masks when they were ready, and distributed them from their police station. She took up this challenge and then joined another group who made coats for medical staff working in nursing homes in Madrid. Most recently, Elena has also joined the “Sponge Cakes” group, which delivers homemade biscuits to shelters, the Red Cross, and other organisations that provide food to disadvantaged families - all while teleworking and taking care of her three children.

“People's solidarity makes us appreciate the human, intellectual and political generosity of the founders of the European Economic Community”

Eusebio Coordinates food donation to over 25 000 people Spain, Tarragona

Eusebio Alonso Redondo supervises Tarragona's Food Bank, which provides food to more than 25 000 people across the province every day. A retired notary, Eusebio now devotes his time to this solidarity effort, which receives several tonnes of food products every day from agrifood companies, supermarkets, large stores, and rural cooperatives. Even families with little money donate 10 or 15 euros to the food bank to help those less fortunate then them. "Is there greater solidarity than this?" asks Eusebio. People's support across Europe for those in need makes Eusebio appreciate the immense human, intellectual, and political generosity of the founders of the European Economic Community, which paved the way for the Treaty of Rome in 1957. As Eusebio puts it, "Love and solidarity go hand in hand. And that is our heritage for the future."

“Disinformation is as contagious as Covid-19”

David Helps Europeans to understand the nature and scope of the pandemic Spain, Madrid

As a journalist specialized in health, David is at the forefront of providing information about COVID-19, mainly covering the press conferences of the Spanish health authorities. As a member of Europa Press, his way of fighting the virus is to offer verified data and facts to combat disinformation and hoaxes. Like all Spaniards, he has been working at home and strictly following confinement, which makes reporting on the situation even more challenging. But, by working in this way, David ensures that he protects himself, protects others, and keeps Europa Press' audiences updated, ultimately saving lives. As the pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories. The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis. Experts and politicians from the EU also regularly hold video conferences to share effective methods to address the impacts of disinformation.

“Meeting this unprecedented challenge will take more than innovation. Collaboration and solidarity are key”

Tomás Developing a vaccine against Covid-19 Spain, Santiago de Compostela

Developing a vaccine would be a game changer in the fight against Covid-19. Tomás Pose, Natalia Barreiro, Rebeca Menaya, and José Manuel Martínez Costas are the team behind such a project in a lab at the CIQUS building, University of Santiago de Compostela. Their work consists of programming cells, of any origin, to produce microspheres that absorb the proteins of the virus. As in any other project aimed at developing a vaccine, the goal is to have our body generate an immune response that stops the virus. According to Tomás, developing a vaccine could take more than a year, as the process entails up to three clinical trials before the vaccine can be considered safe to be used on humans. However, the innovative system created exclusively in this lab shows great promise. Recently the Carlos III Health Institute, part of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education, supported the team with 150 000 euros so that a crucial new phase of the project could begin.

“Put love and imagination into everything you do”

Yolanda and Aitana Help older people and those with underlying medical problems during the quarantine Spain, Madrid

In many countries, older people are facing the most threats and challenges at this time. Although all age groups are at risk of contracting COVID-19, older people face significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract the disease due to physiological changes that come with ageing and potential underlying health conditions. Yolanda and her daughter Aitana have made it their mission to help the older people in their lives during this difficult time. Aitana ensures her grandparents have enough to eat, helping put together a shopping list that her mother can buy and deliver outside their door. They stay in regular contact over video calls so her grandparents feel less socially isolated and more supported. Yolanda also assists the older adults in their building who have become more dependent on others. By taking their garbage out and collecting medicines they need from the pharmacy, she makes lives much easier for these people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

“To wear or not to wear masks? How to protect ourselves? I filled in the gap by sharing my expertise and I do hope that my message convinced at least some to stay at home”

Mindaugas Doctor working in a Spanish hospital and sharing his advice for Lithuanians on YouTube Spain, Lleida

Mindaugas Gudelis has been working as a doctor at FC Barcelona since before the Covid-19 outbreak. In the very first days of the epidemic, he offered to join the frontlines at Lleida hospital in Spain and, in addition, started sharing engaging, fact-based videos that spread quickly and widely on social media in Lithuania.

“Solidarity means that we are willing to put ourselves at risk to protect other people”

Ignacio Provided masks to the Guardia Civil who were working without protection Spain, Madrid

Ignacio was lucky enough to receive a stock of masks from friends living in Singapore. While on his way to work, he noticed that members of the Guardia Civil - who were making sure people were respecting the safety rules during confinement - were working without any protective gear. Ignacio offered to share his stock of masks with the police staff, who were deeply moved by his proposition.

“We want to make sure everyone gets the support they need”

Patricia Provides psychological help to cope with COVID Spain, Madrid

In addition to the economic issues that can affect those unable to work from home, this quarantine can have serious impacts on people’s mental health due to lack of social interaction and outdoor activities. To help others deal with the situation, a group of 10 professionals have prepared a guide on the psychological impacts of quarantine and how to deal with them. Everyone can benefit from “psiCOVIDa-10”, as the guide is known. They took special care to include support for older adults, families with children and/or children with disabilities, caregivers of sick people, teleworkers, health personnel and other affected professionals.

“Hospitality staff give so much in their jobs, it's only right we support them now”

Sara Helps the Spanish and Portuguese hospitality sector Spain, Madrid

With so many people staying at home, the hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit during the coronavirus crisis. In order to support this, Sara's company has so far donated €1 million to staff who have been impacted by COVID 19, as well as offering online training programmes for all professionals working in the hotel and catering sector. We don’t know yet when this crisis will be over. But to make sure we come out of it stronger, the European Union is already working on a robust, new budget for Europe.

“It has been amazing to see the dedication, effort, and positive energy of my colleagues and the hospital staff”

Matilde Works as part of a team in Madrid to organise new hospital beds for patients seriously affected by coronavirus Spain, Madrid

Matilde is a professor at the Complutense University and an anaesthesiologist at the Gregorio Marañón University Hospital (HGUGM) in Madrid. During the epidemic, she contributed to the organisation of new beds to treat critically ill patients at HGUGM. This enabled the hospital to move from simultaneously treating 40 critical patients at the beginning of the outbreak, to 115 critical cases at the worst moments of the crisis. This has allowed the treatment of the most severely ill patients, and the effort has saved many lives. Matilde has been amazed by the dedication and energy shown by all her colleagues during these trying times. To make sure such dedicated medical staff have the equipment they need to do their jobs effectively, the European Commission moved to protect the availability of supplies of personal protective equipment by restricting the exports of such equipment outside the EU.

“Data guides our way to controlling this pandemic”

Amparo Accelerates case detection and situation reporting through her research Spain, Madrid

Based at the Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Amparo's activity is focused on obtaining the maximum information possible from the surveillance systems of COVID-19, and other secondary data sources, to guide local and national health authorities in the control of the pandemic. Her team also participates in the I-MOVE-COVID-19 project, funded by EU Horizon2020. In total €47.5 million in Horizon 2020 funding has been granted to 17 shortlisted research projects to advance the understanding of COVID-19 and improve clinical management. A further €45 million call for proposals is under way for therapeutics and diagnostics to tackle current and future coronavirus outbreaks, under the Innovative Medicines Initiative.

“Why do I do it? To inform, inspire, and put this world crisis into context”

Eduardo Captures photographs from the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak Spain, Madrid

As a member of Europa Press, photojournalists like Eduardo are our eyes to the world, taking on a tremendous responsibility. Silent witnesses to historic events, they are committed to the truth, eschewing suggestion, compromise, or intervention. Why is photography important to them and, by extension, to all of us? Photographs are the universal language of our era. Photojournalists sort the chaos of the world into images that bring clarity to the mayhem that surrounds us. They call our attention to the things we miss, to events and people a great distance away from our own corner of Europe. The outbreak of the coronavirus has led to disinformation spreading, which hampers efforts to contain the pandemic. The European Union is committed to raising awareness of the dangers of disinformation, not only for citizens’ health, but also for democracy. Just as we respect social distancing and wash our hands, we have the duty to stop the spread of fake advice and manipulative stories.

“You don't have to be a hero to help, just be a human being”

Sara Makes face masks for healthcare workers Spain, Madrid

We might have to stay at home to help stop the spread of the virus, but that doesn't mean we can't be of great help to the people on the front lines of this outbreak. Sara decided to help in the production of masks for healthcare workers, making them from her home in Madrid. Usually a teacher by trade, Sara has taken this time away from the classrom as an opportunity to show solidarity and compassion for the communities around her. All across the EU, we've seen how action by just one person can help many, many others. Promoting the value of togetherness is key in our fight against the virus. Say thank you today to someone you know who is promoting European solidarity in their own way.

“Music has become a link, a message of encouragement, of strength”

Ana María Performs lunchtime concerts from her balcony Spain, Albacete

One act of kindness can start a chain reaction that grows and grows. This was the case for Ana María and her husband, both violinists, who decided to give an impromptu concert to their neighbours from their balcony one afternoon. The next day, from another balcony, they were joined by a viola player, and the following day another neighbor on saxophone. Every day, their community now awaits their noon concert, buoyed by the music and the knowledge that they are not alone in these exceptional times. All across Europe, we see citizens contributing their own unique talents as #EuropeansAgainstCovid19. Perhaps there is something you love that you can bring to brighten the day of those around you. In Europe, we all play a role. We will make it through this crisis together.

“We know how much people need us, and we're not going to let them down”

Cecilia Dairy farmer. Keeps working to ensure essential goods remain available throughout the crisis Spain, Villaquejida, León

Cecilia and her husband run a family dairy farm: they're the only people working at the farm to keep the production going. They proudly keep on working through the crisis to make sure basic products such as milk remain available to the many families that rely on it. Like many local family farms, they are supported by the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. More than ever, they are proud of what they do: they know people rely on them to keep on providing essential goods we usually take for granted. And they will be keeping on working tirelessly in these difficult times, however difficult it may be.