Healthcare staff win top Spain prize for 'spirit of sacrifice'

Healthcare workers from around Spain (pictured March 2020) react to the people's support as they are cheered on outside their hospitals in the cities of Barcelona, Burgos, Valencia, Coruna and Palma de Mallorca

Spain's healthcare workers won the prestigious Princess of Asturias prize Wednesday, with the jury hailing their "heroic spirit of sacrifice" in risking their own lives in the frontline fight against COVID-19.

Considered the equivalent to a Nobel Prize within the Spanish-speaking world, the Princess of Asturias Award recognises individuals or institutions in a number of different categories from literature to the arts, science and sport.

In allocating the award, the jury congratulated "thousands of people... in public and private healthcare centres who have been in direct contact with patients" suffering from the deadly virus that has claimed more than 27,000 lives.

Health ministry figures indicate more than 50,000 healthcare staff have been infected by the virus in Spain, representing 22 percent of the 240,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

And medical associations say more than 50 have died as a result of the virus.

"With their heroic spirit of sacrifice and facing serious risks at personal costs, including that of their own lives, they have become a symbol" of the fight against the virus, the jury said.

And that had won them "ongoing expressions of thanks and solidarity" from the nation, it said in a nod to the applause that has rung out every night at 8:00 pm from homes across the country since the crisis began in mid-March.

At the height of the pandemic, with hospitals on the brink of collapse, healthcare professionals had protested over the lack of beds and ventilators for patients as well as personal protection equipment for frontline staff.