COVID-19 Support

Support during the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the coronavirus. It spreads primarily through droplets and many people infected with COVID-19 experience respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop severe illness.

The outbreak was first identified in December 2019 and was recognised as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11th March 2020.

Many of our member organisations work at the forefront of the pandemic, providing care and support.

JOIN members COVID-19

On 28th October 2020, Johanniter Austria has reopened its homeless shelter in Vienna with an increased number of beds. Many people without accommodation belong to the COVID-19 high-risk group and suffer significantly during the pandemic crisis. As homeless people are more often in poor health, and without a place of retreat, they cannot adequately protect themselves from the virus. A total of 470 beds are available in the houses in two locations in Vienna. 

Read more (in German) here.

True to its mission, Association des Œuvres de Saint-Jean (AOSJ) continued receiving and welcoming outpatients and families of hospitalised people over the year.

Further to recommendations of the health authority, three hostels located in Bordeaux, Nantes and Hôpital Necker in Paris had to close during the first lockdown in the spring. The opening of the new hostel in Montpellier scheduled for the second half of 2020 had to be postponed to the first half of 2021 and the hostel in Lyons that successfully opened in 2019 saw its activity grind to a halt in line with that one of the University Hospital that cancelled all non-emergency procedures.

Despite this context, throughout the year 2020, the ‘Maisons Saint-Jean’ continued to welcome outpatients and families of hospitalised people offering 45 000 nights to 7 800 guests. One of the concerns was to make sure that guests from overseas, who were stranded because of the lockdowns, would be able to stay on until they could travel back home.

The ‘Maisons Saint-Jean’ also welcomed families of COVID-19 patients transferred to Bordeaux and Nantes because of the lack of capacity of the hospital system close to their homes.

When transporting infectious patients that require intensive care, three things are essential: the shortest possible transport times, well-trained staff in compliance with infection control and continuing the intensive care without interruption. For the ‘Luftrettung’ (air ambulance) of Johanniter Germany, these are requirements that are placed on most of its transports. Johanniter Luftrettung specialised in this at an early stage and was the first to use the infection transport system IsoArk in 2013 on rescue and intensive care helicopters. Johanniter Luftrettung has a total of three IsoArk systems and can equip their helicopters with the system on special request by a health authority.

“With our two intensive care helicopters we have flown about 25 patients who are in need of intensive care and who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 or were suspected of having corona at the time of the transport,”

explained doctor and medical director of Johanniter Luftrettung, Mumi Taleb in March.

Read more (in German) here.

Johanniter Nederland invited its volunteers to join the call service, to stay in touch with one or more of the older people who would attend the organised holiday trips and gatherings under normal circumstances. The volunteers already have a relationship with these people and make regular phone calls for attention, listening and small talk. The office of Johanniter Nederland also takes requests for other needs such as grocery shopping. Our Dutch member is in contact with many volunteers that are usually active in institutions and cannot practice their profession anymore and tried to link a request with a volunteer living nearby this guest.
To join the service, volunteers simply need to make a phone call to our Dutch member’s office and let them know about their contact wishes. Johanniter Nederland then provides them with the phone number of the guests agreed upon.
Appointments with guests are then made to manage expectations; like how many times a volunteer will call per week and when they initiate these calls. A regular pleasant chat can work miracles. More information on the service (in Dutch) here.

During self-isolation and social distancing, a friendly voice to talk to helps everyone who is feeling lonely. Having someone to talk to can really make the difference. Also, St John Ambulance is running a caring caller service.


Johanniter Germany offers a listening line to show people they are not alone. In this challenging time, anyone can call Johanniter Germany from Monday to Sunday from 9 am to 7 pm. The personnel on the phone listen and help with questions and topics that concern the callers. The service is anonymous, free of charge and without any time pressure for anyone who wants to have a conversation, exchange ideas or talk about everyday life.

As part of their activities in the field of refugee aid and integration, Johanniter Germany provided general, basic information on the subject of coronavirus in various languages. These serve as a supplement to the official information materials of the Federal Center for Health Education, among others. The information sheets have been translated in cooperation with the Hanover Ethno-Medical Center and will be updated if necessary. Find the information in 12 languages (Arabic, Dari, English, Farsi, French, German, Italian, Kurdish, Russian, Spanish, Tigrinya and Turkish) here.

The German Johanniter hospitals formed a central coronavirus-competence team to coordinate and control the work in its facilities.

“Telephone conferences are held regularly with representatives from all Johanniter hospitals. Strategic purchasing is also involved here to ensure supply chains for protective and hygienic materials. Pandemic stocks are formed.” explained Dr med Thomas Krössin, managing director for Johanniter hospitals.

Spatial contingency concepts for the protection of hospitals and intensive care units and intermediate care units have been established.

More information on the measures (in German) here.

It has been recommended that basic care for people of high risk groups should be provided by relatives, if possible. For this reason, Johanniter Germany offers a nursing coach with valuable practical tips and support for relatives. People who take care of someone, take a lot of responsibility and the Johanniter nursing coach is ideal support. There are free online nursing courses ranging from the basics of nursing at home to strategies for coping with and relieving the burden of everyday care.


St John Ambulance created a series of free online learning packages to teach first aid. When in-person training was allowed again, they blended the digital training with COVID-safe face-to-face classes. During this time our English member taught essential lifesaving skills to more than 110,000 people. As one of England’s largest youth organisations, St John Ambulance ensured their young people, aged 7 to 17, stayed connected. The weekly unit meetings help young people to keep in touch and keep their spirits high. Watch the video here.

S.O.G.IT run a targeted campaign in Settimo Torinese for fundraising to purchase essential medical equipment to face high infection risks. By using word of mouth, it reached those who knew the reality of the emergency service and could purchase a bio-containment stretcher with the help of several local and international companies. The new bio-containment stretcher is now operational on an advanced rescue ambulance from S.O.G.IT. It is particularly valuable for the efficient medical transport of patients and for the protection of operating personnel. Read more (in Italian) here.


Nursing homes in the Netherlands have to deal with residents and clients who cannot be in direct contact with their relatives and loved ones. Also, the Johanniter volunteers cannot offer a helping hand and a listening ear in the same way as usual.

To make a difference, Johanniter Nederland has set up a postcard campaign for nursing homes and other healthcare institutions where Johanniter volunteers are active. An advertising agency designed eight different unbranded postcards free of charge. The postcards were printed and offered to healthcare institutions.

The idea was that the volunteers send these cards with a sweet personal message to the residents or clients. After all, they know the people who now have to live in isolation. A postcard can then mean a lot.

The call to participate in the postcard campaign has been met in large numbers. All 4,500 postcards have been distributed to various Johanniter volunteer groups. They were then sent to older isolated people and volunteers who cannot do their work.

Read more (in Dutch) here.

Volunteers from St John Ambulance with colleagues from the National Health Service during the COVID-19 pandemic taking a break to give a “heart” for support.

Since early 2020, St John Ambulance has focused its operations on meeting the demands of the National Health Service (NHS) and communities in its biggest deployment during peacetime, and the charity continues to do so as England faces the challenge of COVID. Ambulances and highly trained crews were put at the health service’s disposal, and many St John volunteers were deployed to hospitals around the country – from Tameside to Torbay and Chesterfield to Cambridge – including London’s Nightingale facility, a temporary hospital built in only 10 days.

During 2020 St John Ambulance Volunteers provided over 249,000 hours or over 31,146 eight hour shifts. The work has included operating ambulances moving patients, support in hospitals, and community response. This was a dramatic expansion on its existing support for the NHS, which varies across the country but normally includes providing emergency, urgent care and non-emergency ambulances, volunteers supporting emergency departments, and Community First Responders.

“As a charity, with around 8,500 available health volunteers, and England’s auxiliary ambulance service, St John stands ready to offer extra, immediate support to the NHS and the public, as required. We are working closely with NHS England and the National Ambulance Strategic Advisor on how we can support the health service during the COVID-19 pandemic.”


The volunteers of St John Malta are putting themselves at the disposal of the national authorities to help deal with the spread of COVID-19. St John began mobilising its volunteers since the first case on the islands. In addition to preparing for different eventualities, the volunteers underwent specific preparatory training in decontamination procedures held by the Civil Protection Department.

St John Malta works closely with the national authorities and provides resources and capabilities. Preparations included the acquisition and preparation of specific personal protective equipment. It prepared to operate fire stations to supplement the Civil Protection Department, assist with decontamination processes, transportation and logistics services and provide assistance to the vulnerable and older people. By collaborating with other charities, St John Malta ensured that food supplies reached families in need. Read more here.

The care centre is operated by Johanniter Austria together with the Samaritan Association. It is intended for the quarantine of suspected COVID cases that have no accommodation or cannot be looked after at home.

To prepare for a possible increase in suspected corona cases, Johanniter Austria and the Samaritan Association took measures on behalf of the City of Vienna in April and set up a new care centre for suspected COVID-19 cases in a former hospital. The care centre can accommodate 61 people. The capacities are intended for people who should be in quarantine due to suspected infection with the coronavirus, but who cannot be cared for at home. This can affect people who live in confined spaces at home with other family members.

“The care centre is not a hospital replacement and is only intended for people who are suspected to be infected. Patients are allocated via the Vienna Rescue Service,”

explained Johanniter Managing Director Robert Heindl in April.

The care centre is operated by a total of 30 paramedics and nurses, including full-time and volunteer employees as well as civil servants.

Read more (in German) here.


Johanniter Germany engages in support with supplies in various ways. They support the local food bank with their cars in the city of Stade and distribute food to homeless people in Bremen and Aachen. Its volunteers also help the risk-groups by doing their shopping for them. Everyone can contact them and make a shopping list. The volunteers collect the list and the money for the purchase, do the shopping and bring it with change and receipt to the door.


Johannita Hungary provides food gifts to the COVID department of a local hospital and supplied those who are fighting in the frontlines with multiple foods and drinks. Additionally, Johannita distributed three trucks of cakes to several health care institutes and the Directorate for Social and Children Welfare. Also, similar quantity was donated to Roma municipalities.


Our Italian member is reimbursing the bills of its volunteers who purchase medicines and food for people in need. S.O.G.IT pays the amount to the volunteers that help the locals with their shopping. It encourages the volunteer to deliver outside the door of the homes and equip them with all necessary safety devices.

A Volunteer learning how to give a vaccination during training with St John Ambulance. Volunteer Vaccinators have come from all parts of society from airline pilots to teachers to hairdressers to students.

Volunteers of St John Ambulance are supporting the NHS England and NHS Improvement COVID-19 vaccination programme. The first teams were sent to vaccination centres across the country on Monday, 11th January 2021.

Recruitment from St John Ambulance’s existing volunteers and employees has been boosted by thousands of people trained in first aid by the charity, with additional capacity coming from partner organisations including the Royal Voluntary Service, which runs the NHS Volunteer Responder programme.

In the last quarter of 2020, St John Ambulance was asked to spearhead recruiting and deploying more than 30,000 people as vaccinators, vaccination care volunteers and patient advocates in support of the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme, working alongside health service colleagues to ensure that everyone over 18 can be vaccinated. Existing teams of St John volunteers – from 16 and 17-year-old Cadets to students and adult first aiders – are being joined by thousands of people from all walks of life, in the nation’s collective effort to beat the coronavirus pandemic.

In late 2020, our English member started recruiting and training tens of thousands of volunteers to support the vaccination programme.

To date (November 2021), St John Ambulance’s vaccination volunteers have provided more than 800,000 hours of their time for the national vaccination rollout. Well over a million hours of St John Ambulance volunteers’ support for communities on the frontline of COVID-19 includes work in hospitals and on ambulances ever since the pandemic began.

As winter begins and England face the double threat of extreme weather and significant anxiety around the new Omicron variant, St John Ambulance continues to play its role in supporting the NHS to respond.

Volunteers of St John Ambulance Malta support the national Health Department vaccination programme. Besides administering the vaccine, the St John Ambulance volunteers also assisted in organising members of the public during queueing, registration procedure, the necessary preparations before administration of the vaccine, as well as treatment, if necessary, up to 15 minutes after the vaccine is administered. Read more here.


Johanniter Germany supports the establishment and operation of vaccination centres nationwide, which are intended to protect the population against the COVID-19 virus.

“With our established disaster management structures, we are well prepared to make our contribution to contain the virus,” says Jörg Lüssem, Member of the Federal Board of Johanniter.

In many regions, preparations for the operation of vaccination centres and the provision of mobile vaccination teams are ongoing. All nine regional Johanniter associations are currently involved in the implementation at around 200 locations in Germany.

As an aid organisation, Johanniter Germany has more than 40,000 volunteers. More than 6,000 of them have specialised disaster management training. They are available in 194 civil protection units throughout Germany to take over tasks in situations such as the current Corona pandemic. Read more (in German) here.