A medical worker performs a test on a woman suspected to be infected at the hospital in Vannes, France, where patients suffering from coronavirus disease are treated, on March 20, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Overwhelmed, mostly under-resourced and risking their lives in the seemingly unending battle against a virulent virus. That’s the state of the global army today that’s taking on a pandemic which has already claimed more than 12,000 lives and affected more than 284,000 people around the world. And the sleep-deprived heroes of that army come armed with stethoscopes and thermometers. The hospital is their theatre and the ventilator often the weapon of last resort.

In the global war against coronavirus, they are our true heroes. Doctors, nurses, pathologists and paramedics. Ambulance drivers, medical cleaners and administrators. Hospital managers and other pillars of the desperately-strained public health system around the world. And medical researchers racing against all odds in the quest to develop a cure.

Some have stared at desperate faces stricken with the virus and healed them, brought them back to safety. Some of them have stared at battles lost. And many have laid down their lives in the line of duty.

They are our true heroes.

Selfless warriors

A 29-year-old doctor in Wuhan — the epicentre of the outbreak in China — who postponed his planned Lunar New Year marriage to save hundreds of lives hit by the killer virus. But he never made it — he died after contracting the virus from one of the patients. A 67-year-old physician in Italy — the new global epicentre of the virus — who continued to treat dozens of patients even after all his protective gear ran out, and sacrificed his life in the process. An 80-year-old lung specialist who came out of retirement to attend to the surging cases of COVID-19 positive patients in West Jakarta. A nurse in the northern Italian town of Cremona, whose face with her mask on has come to symbolise the exhausting efforts of those fighting COVID-19.

They are our true heroes.

In most cases, these selfless warriors have had to cut themselves off from their own families and loved one to prevent infecting them. Their extraordinary sacrifice for the sake of humanity has come at a great personal cost and deserves our unending gratitude.

But gratitude alone is not sufficient. When this crisis is over, there must be a reassessment of who we value most in society and how we treat them. We need to find ways of robustly investing in what matters the most — in higher wages and better conditions for the medical fraternity, in advancing medical research and technology, in acknowledging that they are the last frontier of our modern battles.

That will be the best tribute we can pay to our heroes and the true saviours of the 21st century.

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