“We want our videos to enable creative co-participation”

Theatre troupe KVADRIFONS Published videos of reading tales from Giovanni Boccaccio's book "The Decamaron" Latvia, Riga

It’s story time! Starting on 16 March, each day the theatre company KVADRIFRONS has been publishing a video in which various people read short stories out loud. The stories all come from Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decamaron” – a classic of Italian literature containing 100 tales told in the context of the Black Death plague. “We find these stories to be very relevant to the situation we are in today. Plus, this initiative creates a unifying feeling of participation and presence”, says a member of the theatre company. While the video sessions were completed in May, the readings are still available on the KVADRIFRONS Facebook, Youtube, and Spotify pages.

“How do you live four months with 735 euros?”

Giuliano Lived for four months without salary and decided to dedicate part of his free time to voluntary work Italy, Reggio Emilia

What would you do if you had an 11-year old daughter and were without income for four months? While most of us would be tempted to panic, Giuliano decided he’d take some time to reconnect with nature and do some volunteer work, distributing masks to people in his neighbourhood. “I work for a company manufacturing conveyor belts but was told to go home on 3 March. The company had to close down and dismiss employees. I had to wait until the beginning of May to get unemployment money: 735 euros before tax, and nothing ever since. These have been very difficult times,” he recalls. The EU has been working to alleviate such situations. Efforts include EUR 100 billion to keep people in jobs; food and basic material assistance for the most deprived; and EUR 37 billion of structural funds to support healthcare, businesses and workers.

“Our studio is a heritage of the dance community, we had to save it!”

David Launched a crowdfunding campaign to save a popular art and contemporary dance centre from bankruptcy Belgium, Brussels

Some ventures are always worth saving, no matter what it takes. This is how the team of Belgium’s Tictac Art Centre came to feel as they witnessed the world going into lockdown. “We are a young non-profit organisation that promotes art and contemporary dance from the local to the international level. We progressively became a popular meeting point for the European and intercontinental dance scene”, David Zambrano, director of the Tictac Art Centre, explains. As Belgium enforced its own containment measures, the group was quick to realise that their entire project was at risk of not overcoming the crisis. After several weeks looking for potential solutions, they ended up launching a crowdfunding campaign. “We had to save the project, and crowdfunding was one of the few possibilities left. The campaign ended up being a huge success. We can clearly say now that we could never have survived without the support of all the artists, dancers, students and art enthusiasts who donated”, David concludes.

“Rather than sitting home, I thought we pilots should get together and start helping”

Roman Roman, Slovakia. Uses his skills as a pilot and his experience with matching algorithms to deliver medical supplies across the country. Slovakia, Bratislava

Not every plane in Europe got grounded during the confinement. In Slovakia for instance, over 80 pilots with their own private planes realised the Covid-19 outbreak was actually an opportunity to fly more. It wouldn’t be for recreational purposes though. This time, their flying time would serve the greater good. “One day we had 13 aircraft in the air. Our mission was to transport medical supplies to about 250 addresses in 120 minutes. Our “customers” included emergency units, firefighters, hospitals, the Red Cross or retirement homes”, Roman explained. His initiative started with a call for volunteers on Facebook and was ultimately green-lit by the Slovakian government. Dedicated software (made possible through Roman’s work as CEO of artman.eu) matches requests with available pilots using GPS and contacts them through the PILOTS4PEOPLE.EU platform.

“A hot dish is our way to say thanks to those who are saving us”

Foundation “Hospiss LV” Provides free hot meals to doctors and medical staff Latvia, Riga

From restaurants, to businesses, to volunteers, many different people came together to deliver free hot meals to doctors and medical staff. The initiative came from the “Hospiss LV” foundation, who have helped to provide over 50 000 meals since the COVID-19 outbreak struck Latvia, with this number continuing to grow. “With this initiative, we support not only the medical staff who work tirelessly for all of us, but also catering companies. This crisis has brought unexpected challenges for them too,” says a representative of the foundation. Hospiss LV’s efforts echo similar initiatives across Europe. The European Parliament, for instance, has kept its Brussels kitchen opened to serve dishes to people who need it most.

“We need more help for entrepreneurs, especially for those who create jobs”

Jan Struggled to save his restaurant Slovakia, Zemplinska šírava

Since March, running a restaurant has been a tall order. Imagine having no income for almost two months while expenditures remain the same and, even as you reopen, you have to deal with extra investment and lower attendance. On 31 March, Jan was told to close down his restaurant and send his 10 employees home. Since the reopening, reservations have been down by 50%. “We need faster help for entrepreneurs, especially for those who create jobs,” Jan says. “SMEs create 80% of all jobs and need more support.” The European Parliament understands Jan's concerns. “Time is a luxury we cannot afford. We need to act urgently and courageously, as EU citizens, businesses and economies need an immediate response. Our citizens expect bold action. Now it is time for us to deliver", said Parliament President David Sassoli in his video conference address to EU leaders. Read more here.

“Now I know what a strong and united Europe really means”

Joe Worked side by side with Italian specialists to save coronavirus patients' lives Italy, Lecco

The EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre helped send a medical team from Romania to support healthcare workers in Italy. Led by Major Joe Stroescu, they worked for over two weeks side by side with Italian specialists to save coronavirus patients' lives. The team of 3 nurses and 11 doctors was comprised of lung specialists, anaesthetists, and experts in intensive care and emergency medicine. They all underwent three days of training on the Italian healthcare system before putting on their protective gear and treating patients in the towns of Lecco and Merate in Lombardy. As Joe puts it, “It doesn't matter where we come from. In life it matters what we do, and in these difficult moments it is important to show solidarity and help each other, because only together can we win this battle. This act of solidarity has saved lives and shows the true nature of the EU family.” We couldn't agree more.

“Thanks to the medical equipment bought with EU funds, we can treat more patients”

Piotr Helps border communities facing health emergencies Poland, Tomaszów Lubelski

Coronavirus knows no borders, but neither does our effort to fight it. In the region around the borders of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine, the EU-funded RESCUE project has helped deliver ambulances and ventilators to hospitals so that doctors can fight the coronavirus pandemic across countries and at the EU’s periphery. Piotr Gozdek is in charge of Internal Medicine and Cardiology at a health centre in Tomaszów Lubelski. “As we are close neighbours, our patients, no matter which side of the border they are from, can count on a higher quality of healthcare. The contacts between hospitals allow us to exchange experiences in situations of massive health crises, of which the SARS-Cov2 pandemic is undoubtedly one.” It is not only equipment that is provided: the project offers specialized training courses for 69 physicians, 48 rescuers, and 137 nurses, and preparations are also underway for learning initiatives for 4,500 inhabitants.

“We’re volunteering to help build solidarity in Europe”

Laurenz Volunteers through the European Solidarity Corps Germany, Spielberg

More young Europeans than ever are contributing to society as volunteers through the European Solidarity Corps. 18-year-old Laurenz Aupperle from Germany is one of them. Since September last year, he’s been working as a member of the organisation in France. However, coronavirus left him no choice but to return home to Germany. This setback hasn’t stopped him from achieving great things via the internet. Laurenz and five fellow volunteers from across Europe launched a project called La Semaine de l’Europe (Europe Week) with activities to encourage people to learn more about Europe, the EU, and our diverse cultures. “Citizens don’t know how they benefit from the EU, and how they can contribute as a member of it. This is what we aim to change. We want to contribute to building solidarity in Europe, solidarity much needed in tough periods like the one we’re going through.”

“We are using our EU-funded research to work on a new coronavirus test”

Maarten Developed a new type of rapid test The Netherlands, Eindhoven

Thanks to EU support, Professor Maarten Merkx from the Technical University of Eindhoven has developed a new type of rapid test which detects virus antibodies in the blood via light-emitting proteins. He is now working to apply the same method to coronavirus. The power of his approach is that the test can be done directly in blood, and the signal can be detected with the camera of a smart phone. Part of his project is also to develop a paper-based strip that contains the same testing components - he calls it ‘glow-in-the-dark’ paper-based diagnostics. When a person has viral antibodies, it means that they have already had the disease or been exposed to the virus, information which could be very useful in containing the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. This sort of rapid antibody testing is therefore crucial for those who work with vulnerable people, but also to help all of us decide whether we should visit loved ones in high risk groups or plan our return to work.

“Even from home, we’re protecting consumers across Europe during the crisis”

Karin Answers consumer questions related to coronavirus Luxembourg, Luxembourg

European Consumer Centres across the EU advise citizens on their consumer rights on cross-border shopping in the single market. With the coronavirus outbreak, they have seen a huge spike in enquiries, with 50% more calls than usual. Many questions relate to the impact of coronavirus on flights and train tickets, hotels, B&Bs, and package holidays. The centres also advise consumers about the dangers of fraudulent medicines, fake protective masks and sanitisers, and scams related to coronavirus. They inform national authorities whenever any such scams are detected. Karin Basenach is the head of the consumer centre in Luxembourg. “In these difficult times with coronavirus, our lawyers are there for you as usual and will offer you advice free of charge.”

“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.