Secured protective gear for workers and set up 300 beds for post-discharge care

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Giuseppe GUERINI
European confederation of industrial and service cooperatives (Cecop-Cicopa Europe)

Since 23 February, when we realised that the virus was spreading, I have had to deal with many crises faced by the cooperatives I represent.

Our cooperatives in Bergamo employ over 9 000 workers in social and healthcare services, managing care and home help services, and residential and daycare centres for elderly and disabled people. We had days and weeks of constantly rising tension and anxiety: the desperate rush to secure protective gear for our workers, along with the worry about keeping certain care and home help services in operation, despite limited resources.

We also saw many businesses and activities having to be closed: first schools and other educational establishments, then gradually activities in other sectors. Over 180 of our cooperatives have had to activate social shock absorbers for around 2 500 people, and there is now a risk that these cooperatives will not be able to start up again.

Still, we are not losing hope and are enormously encouraged by the incredible wave of solidarity and the response of local communities, volunteer associations and social organisations, which have achieved miracles when it comes to collecting donations and doing what has to be done. Society has achieved truly impressive feats. In just ten days in Bergamo (and other cities as well), field hospitals were set up using fairground tents, with huge numbers of volunteers working around the clock to get them ready. In Bergamo, we equipped three hotels with over 300 beds for patients discharged by the hospitals as soon as they were in a stable condition in order to free up hospital beds. Our social cooperatives have taken on the duties of caring for patients in these hotels. All of this involved a massive effort, showing that we can work together in the fight against COVID-19.