STOCKHOLM & MUMBAI – From Sweden to India, people are rising above the call of duty to send reinforcements in the fight against the coronavirus.
In Sweden, furloughed crew of Scandinavian airline SAS have volunteered to take up three-day course in basic hospital duties to help plug gaps in a Swedish healthcare system grappling with thousands of coronavirus cases.
This month, the airline temporarily laid off 10,000 staff, about 90% of its workforce, to cut costs and sustain the airline amid a plunge in air travel due to the coronavirus and related border closures. The airline is partly owned by the Swedish and Danish governments.
Sophiahemmet University Hospital is teaching former cabin crew skills such as sterilising equipment, making hospital beds and providing information to patients and their relatives.
The first students are expected to complete the course on Thursday (2 April). Response to the course has been overwhelming, with students expected to number around 300 in the coming weeks.
Airlines in Australia and the US have also enquired about using the training methods for their staff, according to Johanna Adami, principal at the University.
The course is free of charge, with a funding of 7 million Swedish crowns (US$698,000) from the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg foundation.
Sweden has some 4,500 confirmed cases of the virus and 180 deaths, with the capital especially hard hit. Healthcare officials in Stockholm have raced to set up a temporary hospital in a convention centre, warning that it lacks staff and safety equipment to meet the crisis.
Meanwhile in Mumbai, a policeman has garnered attention for his creative approach to encourage people to stay home in the midst of the country’s 21-day lockdown.
Rajesh Babu, a police inspector in the southern city of Chennai, dons a coronavirus helmet while stopping vehicles and pedestrians at checkpoints – all in a bid to educate the public on safety and precautions.
The helmet is covered in red spikes with bulbs on the end – just like the microscopic image of the coronavirus.
Dressed as the coronavirus, he would say: "If you come out, I will come in."
Wearing the helmet, Babu stops people in cars or motorcycles, especially when he sees them not wearing face masks. He tells them about the necessity of social distancing and protective personal equipment, and urges them not to go outside for nonessential reasons.
India has recorded 1,024 cases of the coronavirus and 27 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Last Tuesday, the country entered a lockdown that will last for at least 21 days, applicable to all of India's 36 states and union territories, which together is home to more than 1.3 billion people.
All shops, factories, offices, markets, religious spaces and construction sites are closed, with some interstate transportation suspended. Only essential services including health, grocery or firefighting services, among others, remain in operation.