Madrid, Spain – Spaniards have been urged to write letters to coronavirus patients in hospital.
Alone in isolation wards and with only limited contact with medical staff, some patients have become depressed, said the organisers behind the letter-writing campaign, who hope the messages will help lift spirits.
The initiative, “We will beat coronavirus”, has drawn huge support with children and adults sending letters by email to hospitals across Spain.
The move came as health authorities said more than 13,700 people tested positive with coronavirus in Spain on Wednesday, with the national death toll standing at 598.
The number of people diagnosed with the disease has risen by 2,500 in just over 24 hours. Spain has the world’s fourth-highest number of cases after China, Italy and Iran.
Spanish medical staff have asked letter-writers to include some information about themselves if they want to help the recipients to imagine who is writing to them.
Natalia Silva, a doctor at Hospital San Juan de Deu, near Barcelona, told Al Jazeera: “In our hospital, like many others, there many people with coronavirus, some in intensive care.
“One of the problems is that these patients live in complete isolation. They are alone, far from their families. Some know that their relatives are also in isolation in an equally bad situation. The doctors can only see them once a day.”
Dr Silva added: “This situation has caused sadness and terrible anxiety and for those who have been cured, post-traumatic stress.”
She said at the hospital where she worked, medics and administrators were struggling to cope with the rising number of patients showing symptoms of coronavirus.
Fifty patients there were being treated for coronavirus, and five had died. There was also a lack of protective masks and alcohol which is used as a disinfectant, said Dr Silva.
After the initiative was launched, 30 letters arrived at the Barcelona hospital within hours.
One message said: “My name is Kim, I am French and the mother of three children.
“A person at the hospital explained how difficult it is to live in isolation and without doubt you feel lonely and abandoned.
“I would like to tell you many people are thinking of you and how brave you are fighting against this illness. The doctors, even though they cannot be with you all the time, are there caring for you and fighting with you.
“We wish you all the best and remember that if you keep your spirits up it also helps to fight infections. Try to think this will be over soon. Don’t let this get you down.”
Another letter read: “These words are addressed to you but it could be me who is in your place now.
“I know you want to be close to your loved ones because the encouragement of their love is irreplaceable. From my side, I want to send you all my support and love. I am encouraged by the way people in this country have become aware and are spreading love.
“I want you to know that you are not alone, that we think of you every day.”
Lorena Balsells, the coordinator of the Foundation Antonio Cabre, a charitable foundation in Barcelona involved in the letters project, told Al Jazeera: “We have asked the community to stand with these patients by sending letters, drawings or by donating face masks.
“One company which has face masks for industrial painting has donated them to the hospital to help the medical staff.”
Children have also sent in drawings to cheer up patients.
One showed three doctors with the message: “Solidarity with medical staff.”
If you would like to join the campaign, email: firstname.lastname@example.org