WATCH: Italian Opera star's treat for Limerick hospital's COVID frontline heroes

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Ireland met Italy in a poignant tribute to COVID-19 frontline heroes and deceased this week as social media sensation and professional opera singer Maurizio Marhcini lifted the spirits of staff of one of the most severely impacted Irish hospitals during the pandemic so far.

The frontline heroes at St. John’s Hospital had their spirits lifted as the professional opera singer, who shot to fame for his performances from his Florence apartment balcony during the peak of Italy’s COVID-19 crisis, surprised them with a Zoom concert.

The Limerick hospital was heavily impacted at the peak of the crisis as some 80 of its 320 clinical staff were in isolation with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Today, three months on from that crisis, staff were treated to the surprise performance by Marchini, who sang live from his balcony while on holidays in Sardina.

Marchini, who sang via a large screen, captivated the staff with a performance arranged by hospital management in appreciation of the selfless line-of-duty heroics of staff.

The opera singer gained international fame in April when he lifted the hearts of Italians and millions of others worldwide across social media during the first COVID-19 wave, with impromptu performances from his apartment balcony in Florence.

St. John’s Hospital CEO Emer Martin made contact with Marchini on Saturday to see if he would put on the surprise performance for her staff, whom she said had been through a COVID storm, and he agreed.

Ms Martin said: “After all the staff has been through, they really deserved this moment and it was really special. His singing was incredible, the weather was perfect. It was just a beautiful moment that they deserved.

“The staff has been nothing short of heroic these past few months, particularly at the height of things in April and early May when we were threadbare in terms of numbers because of nurses either going down with the virus or going into isolation with suspected COVID-19.

“They came in here every day, confronting their own fears, running the risk of bringing COVID-19 back to their families and still managing to put the patient first, patients with COVID-19 and other non-COVID patients. We will never forget it and I certainly won’t forget what they did. Nor will the families who they did their absolute best for in dreadful circumstances.”

Continuing, she said: “Aside from their own fears, one of the biggest challenges they had, but one they stuck to, was trying to make sure that the families of patients here could somehow stay in contact with their loved ones. They connected them at the worst of times, the saddest of times. Literally, they could have done no more as staff and you can’t ask any more of someone than that.”

Ms Maritn added: “I’m just so proud of them and that’s why we arranged this moment today. It’s our way of saying to them, ‘thank you’ for being so brave, for sticking to the ethos of this hospital, which is really about putting the patient first. Today was a small thank-you in return and everyone who knows what went on here over those months would agree.”