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'Move out!' Spanish healthcare workers receive threats from neighbours

Health workers applaud medical staff working at the Puerta de Hierro hospital in Majadahonda, Spain, Saturday, April 18, 2020
Health workers applaud medical staff working at the Puerta de Hierro hospital in Majadahonda, Spain, Saturday, April 18, 2020 Copyright Manu Fernandez/AP
Copyright Manu Fernandez/AP
By Jaime Velazquez
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Healthcare workers in Spain as in other European countries have been receiving threatening notes form their neighbours. They accuse caregivers of spreading the virus and are afraid their presence may mean they could catch COVID-19.


Every evening Elena Garbajosa, a warden at a nursing home in Madrid, removes her uniform before leaving work to make sure she doesn't spread the virus.

She recounts what happened on one occasion. "A neighbour said to me 'how dare you?', if I'm working at a health center I should disinfect everything I touch, every place I step on and almost everything I set eyes upon."

Other healthcare workers have had similar experiences. Notes stuck to their doors asking them to leave, insults and threatening behaviour. 

Frontline workers in Spain have been taking to social media to denounce these attitudes.

Some even reported to the police that they were being harrassed by neighbours who fear their presence could mean they could catch the disease.

Elena says she tries to forget about it and concentrate on those who come out onto their balconies every night to thank her.

"I couldn't imagine that I would have people with such an attitude towards me right on my doorstep. It is sad. You always try to see the positive side. When I get home and I hear the applause, it cheers me up. These other bad attitudes, I just lock them away inside a drawer," said Elena.

Some neighbours have gone further. A gynecologist in Catalonia found her car vandalized with a disturbing message: "Contagious rat!"

Doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers insist they are taking extreme precautions to keep their family and neighbours safe.

And the biggest struggle for them remains the stress caused by the traumatic situations they go through at work.

"It is true, I have cried at times when I left work," said ICU nurse Dolores Martinez. "I have cried at home, I'd let everything go at home... I have children, and a husband, and they noticed I was bringing a lot of worries home. But they ask me, and they let me speak. And they take care of me. So fortunately at home I have some psychological support."

Healthcare workers say they know those threatening them are just a minority of scared people and most have had very positive reactions from their neighbours, Doctors in France say they have received drawings picturing them as heroes and others have found home-cooked meals on their doorstep.

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