2020 through the eyes of essential “invisible” workers

(CNN) –– In March 2020, the towns, cities and airports of Europe stopped their activities when the first wave of covid-19 forced residents to shelter at home. During the following months, many people began working from home. But amid the chaos and uncertainty, essential workers continued to perform their jobs normally. Including agricultural personnel, transportation employees, and postal workers. Groups that formed an often invisible front line during the pandemic.

These are some of the stories of these essential workers.

A farm worker in Britain

Ingrida Bernotiene lives and works on a salad farm in Kent, southeast of England.

This 33-year-old woman is originally from Lithuania and began working in agriculture at the age of 20 as a temporary employee. He is now a production manager and helps supervise seasonal workers in the fields.

Bernotiene worked throughout the pandemic. And he often spent days outside checking crops.

Britain began its first national lockdown in March and the second in November. The United Kingdom has been one of the worst affected countries in Europe, with more than 71,000 deaths from covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. But the farms continued to operate, in a crucial effort to maintain the food supply.

“We worked day to day, six days a week [en el verano]”Bernotiene told CNN. He also detailed that his schedule had not changed affected by the pandemic.

“AND [nosotros] we usually start at 5 am, finish at 4 pm and [tenemos] an hour break. We don’t really feel [asustados] a lot because we feel quite isolated here, [ya que] this farm is in the middle of the fields, “he explained.

Ingrida Bernotiene works on a salad farm in Kent, southern England.

And he added: «At the beginning [en marzo] we were more stressed.

Bernotiene noted that staff took precautions to maintain physical distancing. He also said that during the summer the pandemic limited opportunities for recreation.

«[No hubo] travel, or socialization, or pubs, no restaurants, “he said.

“We work a lot… So usually in the summer we don’t have a proper life anyway, so [no perdimos]… A lot, ”he explained.

Bernotiene’s couple also live and work on the farm. But most of his family is in Lithuania. And she hasn’t been able to visit her since the pandemic started.

“That was the hardest part,” he told CNN.

They couldn’t visit me [y] I couldn’t visit them. Usually, we see each other maybe once or twice a year.

Bernotiene will be spending Christmas at the farm this year, where she and her boyfriend plan to celebrate with a turkey for two.

Taxi drivers in Italy, other essential workers

The first wave of coronavirus in Europe turned life upside down in Italy. Hospitals were crammed with dying patients and lockdown was strictly enforced. On March 27, 2020, the country’s civil protection authorities announced that 969 people had died in just 24 hours.

Massimo Mancinelli is a taxi driver in Rome. During the lockdown in March, he suffered a 90% drop in his job. The continuing lack of tourism and events has paralyzed the sector, according to the 60-year-old man.

Mancinelli said it currently only produces 30% of its pre-pandemic income.

“Tourism and business are totally paralyzed. Companies have allowed teleworking from home. And the cities, especially the historic centers, are totally deserted compared to previous years, ”he said.

Massimo Mancinelli is a taxi driver who lives in Rome, Italy. His work has suffered a significant drop this year.

And he added: “There is simply no demand for mobility … The entire sector is paralyzed with no solutions ahead.”

Mancinelli’s comments coincided with the experience of Andrea Carlieri, another of the city’s taxi drivers.

Carlieri was born and raised in Rome and has been behind the wheel for 15 years.

“Even today, the taxi industry is paralyzed by a lack of tourists, events, ceremonies, concerts and shows,” the 48-year-old man told CNN.

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“There is often talk of solidarity, but in reality it is much less.”

Carlieri added: “I am hopeful from the point of view of medical care. Even if I believe that economically, 2021 will still be very negative.

A postal worker in France

Esther Benderradji has three young children and lives in the small town of Senones, in eastern France.

This 39-year-old woman has worked as a postal worker for the past five years. And occasionally he uses a “staby,” a three-wheeled electric scooter, to deliver mail.

Esther Benderradji lives in the town of Senones in France.

France imposed a new strict confinement in late October. Some of the restrictions were relaxed on December 15. However, several are still in force, while the Government deals with a high number of covid-19 cases.

For many to whom Benderradji delivers the mail, the arrival of letters has become an opportunity to connect with a familiar face.

“We live in rural areas where the elderly are eager to see the postman. Especially when they are isolated from the world, as happened during the confinement, “he told CNN.

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“It has become even more important to go to see them, to maintain the bond,” he said.

“During the first confinement, people would leave us little notes in the mailbox, saying ‘Thank you, postman’. We were really excited about that, ”Benderradji added.

But during the second confinement, these little notes have disappeared. No more thank you notes, no more daily gratitude. Maybe people have gotten used to this. The postman has become the postman again.

A security officer in Britain, also an essential worker

Fane MacDonald works security at a major central London hospital. The young man, 26, began his employment precisely during the pandemic. His job includes having to separate distressed family members, who are prohibited from visiting family members in the hospital, under the strict restrictions of the covid-19.

“Traditionally, most of our job is to make sure no one goes into the hospital,” MacDonald explained to CNN.

“So it can be a bit difficult to push away someone who wants to see a loved one. But [con] most of the people here have been fine, “he said.

He added: «I went from seeing everyone walking and talking, and then I am seeing people enter the hospital, connected to machines. It was a big change.

Many of MacDonald’s friends were placed on the UK Government’s licensing scheme. But he says he was determined to get through the crisis.

Fane MacDonald works as a security officer at a London hospital.

«I am seeing […] many of my friends on leave and [se están] boring a lot, “he said. “But, for me, I think I have been quite happy, I have just kept the same routine.”

However, the young man, 26, misses seeing his family and friends.

“At the beginning [de la pandemia en marzo de 2020] I had a three-month-old nephew, ”he said.

«The next time I saw him he was 10 months old. It was a bit impressive.

MacDonald lives in London and has been unable to visit other members of his family in Scotland during the pandemic. Plan to travel as soon as possible.

A bus driver in Germany

As the end of 2020 draws near, Germany is in the middle of a crisis.

On December 23, the country recorded 962 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. And five days later his total deaths from the virus surpassed 30,000.

Germany entered a national lockdown on December 16, in an attempt to stem the rise in contagion.

Throughout the year, Nadine Rietenbach has been driving buses in Berlin.

“Before the pandemic, passengers boarded my bus from the front. It was really nice to say ‘Hi, how are you,’ ‘Have a great day,’ or ‘See you soon,’ ”she told CNN.

Nadine Rietenbach has worked during the pandemic as a bus driver in Berlin.

“Then, overnight, all of this disappeared. It was no longer possible, ”Rietenbach said, referring to how bus drivers were shielded from passengers to minimize contact.

She added: “Initially we had a cordoned off area that was meant to separate us from passengers. Soon, a transparent plastic sheet similar to a shower curtain was placed to protect us from the passengers.

“At first I enjoyed a bit of peace and quiet, but now I often miss direct contact with the client. It’s so quiet now, ”he explained.

The 43-year-old woman wears disinfectant and cleans the steering wheel of the bus before she starts driving.

“I never felt unsafe and I was never afraid of contracting the virus, not during the first wave of coronavirus or now, the second wave. I’m fine, ”he said.

The Berlin resident feels lucky to continue working.

“I didn’t mind going to work, I can’t work from home,” he laughed. Although he stressed that the number of passengers on buses has decreased.

“There are many more cars on the roads since the pandemic occurred. So maybe not everyone likes to travel by public transport at the moment, “he said.

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“Maybe it will take us all next year to get back to where we were [antes de la pandemia]», He commented.

There are glimmers of hope in Europe for a better 2021.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine has now been licensed and has started to be distributed in the UK. The European Union is also considering the vaccine for approval and is expected to make an announcement in late December. There is growing optimism across the continent that people will return to something close to normal within the next year.

But for many invisible workers, who continued their jobs during the lockdowns and crises of 2020, life will remain largely the same.