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Spanish health workers on the front line against COVID-19

Princess of Asturias Award for Concord 2020

Speech by Mr. José Eugenio Guerrero Sanz, head of the Gregorio Marañón Hospital ICU in Madrid and the Private Hospital Group.

Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, Excellencies, Members of the Juries, Distinguished Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a health worker and intensive care physician, I am both proud and honoured to have been charged with the mission of expressing the gratitude of all Spanish health workers for the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord.

I would like these first words to be words of thanks to the Jury, which has considered us worthy of this Award. A recognition that, paraphrasing Unamuno, belongs to each and every one of us, those of us who go about building our daily lives anonymously, without our name appearing anywhere, but they are, we are, the true protagonists of the story.

The story of 2020 will be marked by the worst health crisis that the world has faced in the 21st century: a pandemic that has changed our way of life and compels us to face an uncertain future. But it has also taught us important lessons and led us to recover essential values.

We have learned that it is difficult to understand the word concord if it is not linked to solidarity, and that a pandemic that brought us –and continues to bring us– so much suffering, pain, dehumanization and death has also reminded us that concord is only attainable through the efforts of one and all through solidarity.

We endured the terrible days of this spring by working together; we overcame them thanks to the joining together of the different parties in the field of healthcare through joint efforts, pooling the resources of both the public and private sectors, in addition to the altruistic collaboration of many enterprises and organizations in facilitating material, the support of essential industries and the invaluable help that the State Security Forces provided.

As health workers, our job has been to fight for life, to provide relief, to restore hope in uncertain times. There was dismay, absolute exhaustion, tears and fear, but we always managed to rise up again, because giving up was not an option. We were never heroes, but we did our job the best we knew how, the best we were able to, in the knowledge that we shared a common fate with society as a whole and that, in the fight against the virus, miracles could not be expected. Only hard work, dedication and effort beyond all limits would suffice.

We were not heroes. Or maybe we all were. Because in the face of a pandemic that forced us to distance ourselves, we knew how to breach the barrier and find a meeting point and, at eight in the evening each day, we went out to applaud life, to look into the eyes ofothers, seeking the strength to continue, knowing we were not alone.

We have also learned that a sound healthcare system offers security in times of uncertainty and provides stability and social peace, crucial elements with which to tackle a crisis like the one we have faced and continue to face. We cannot overlook the fact that the virus is still there and it is more important than ever today for all of us to collectively foster our healthcare system and try to improve it day by day.

Please allow my last words to be for our fellow health workers who have passed away in their fight against this pandemic; men and women who dedicated their lives to caring for the lives of others and who brought their generosity and commitment to bear to the utmost. History may not remember their names, but we shall never forget them and we accept this Award today in their memory.

Thank you very much.

Translated by Paul Barnes.

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