By Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, Regional Director, Europe, International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies

Europe is experiencing the fastest rise in Coronavirus infections in the world and health systems in many countries in our region are approaching breaking point. Yet worryingly, we are witnessing an alarming rise in people saying they are sick and tired of being restricted.

Worrying signs abound that people are failing to take the second wave seriously. Many countries have seen protests against new lockdown restrictions, and in Turkey, a Red Crescent survey [1] found that despite high levels of awareness, some people are less inclined to follow preventive measures now compared to in the early stages of the outbreak.

This pandemic fatigue is only set to worsen as people see the end in sight due to the promising vaccine news and as they’re tempted to buck restrictions of the looming long, dark winter of lockdowns.

But there are things you can do to get through this time and make yourself feel better.

Your actions now are critical and can make a real difference. Consider where we are. With almost 16 million confirmed cases, and 350,000 deaths,[2] Europe accounts for more than half of the new cases globally.[3]

But one of the best ways you can combat pandemic fatigue is to do something that you know is making a real difference, like volunteering for your local Red Cross or Red Crescent. Many of our European Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and branches are desperate for fresh faces and more helping hands as we adapt our work to respond to this unprecedented emergency.

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen a shift from our traditional work and a move into new areas of assistance, as we respond rapidly to the second wave hitting Europe. We’re stepping in to fill gaps in hospitals and health clinics, we are alongside health authorities as they carry out mass testing, we’re supporting the most vulnerable so they don’t fall between the cracks and we’re reaching out to those who are most isolated and alone to defeat loneliness but also to take the dog for a walk or do the shopping.

Our work during the second wave includes in Slovakia where 1,500 local Red Cross personnel are supporting a programme aiming to test the entire adult population; in the Czech Republic we’re training thousands of new volunteers to work in hospitals as hundreds of health workers become sick, French Red Cross staff and volunteers are operating mobile testing units at train stations across Paris and Kyrgystan Red Crescent volunteers are providing first aid and transport for coronavirus patients around the clock.

Many of us are just tired of the relentless nature of this pandemic and are feeling there’s nothing we can do to end it. But there is a lot one person can do. You can play your part by staying the course. Practise social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid crowds. And visit the IFRC website to explore volunteer opportunities near you.

The sorts of thing you might be doing include working on telephone support lines, being part of a team preparing and delivering food, cash and other aid, supporting a mobile testing site or being a friendly face and a listening ear for someone who might not have any other human contact that day.

I can tell you these things are making a difference. In fact, our volunteers tell us that they get back as much as they give.

I urge you to join us. We need you, and you just might find that you need us.