Guardians of the Year

Thursday, 2021-02-11 10:09:48
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Despite always facing dangers, the frontline anti-epidemic physicians are always optimistic. (Photo: AFP)
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NDO – On the front line against COVID-19, health workers around the world have shown the best and most humane things: compassion, empathy, courage and extraordinary stamina. They have placed themselves in the ranks of defenders of divine ideals. That is the comment of Time Magazine (USA) when selecting the anti-pandemic front line medical staff as "Guardians" of 2020.

Time’s 2020 Person of the Year issue honoured frontline health workers against COVID-19 in the Guardians of the Year category, together with American infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci and a number of activists and organisers of the anti-racism movement. According to Time, they are heroes who have firmly stood in the defence of the humanistic and democratic ideals. They have fought and won on many fronts.

In 2020, the coronavirus causing COVID-19 emerged as the new enemy of humanity, a silent and invisible killer. In this against the small, borderless enemies, the frontline is not in a remote war zone, but in hospitals, throughout health care facilities, everywhere, and in every corner of the world. The people fighting the enemy on the frontline are the medical staff, the heroes like any soldier on the battlefield, who devote themselves for the fight regardless of risks to their health and lives.

American doctor Rebecca Martin clearly remembered her terrifying when going to New York in the early days of the outbreak. A sparse flight passenger took the doctor to a place reminiscent of a ghost town, with no cars running on the street and no pedestrians on the sidewalks. From there, Rebecca made her way to Wyckoff Heights Medical Centre in Brooklyn to volunteer her services in taking care of COVID-19 patients.

As for Nyembezi Gausi, a Malawian surgeon who volunteered to take on additional counselling for COVID-19 patients, the most frightening thing is not the risk to her own health but rather the misunderstandings that can lead to stigma. Consulting doctors like Nyembezi Gausi no longer confidently wear medical clothes in public or answer the phone to patients on the bus, but can only perform the task while in a private, secure space. All because they are afraid of being shunned, even being attack, just because they are the most susceptible to COVID-19.

Stories about the frontline medical staff's sacrifices are touching, inspiring, and pervasive. Like Rebecca Martin and Nyembezi Gausi, doctors, nurses and health workers at nursing homes and urgent care centres around the world have overcome their panic in order to care for and maintain the hope of their patients, even though they are placed on the delicate boundary set by COVID-19. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), not only are threats physical, there is also a psychological risk, as health workers have to work hard for long hours and there is always the fear of infection. They must be isolated from their families and face anxiety and stigma from society.

In his message on World Health Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that medical staff carry an unprecedented burden and are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Addressing the will when announcing WHO’s Health Worker Safety Charter, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that the pandemic has reminded the world of the noble mission of health workers.

Compliments continue on social networks, expressing gratitude and praising the compassion, sacrifice and dedication of frontline medical staff – the Guardians of the Year 2020 – in the fight against COVID-19.

By Ninh Son