Spanish health workers on the front line of the fight against coronavirus gathered on Monday outside hospitals in the Madrid region to rally against shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). Nurses, doctors and other workers protested in their uniforms, some in scrubs, under the slogan “health workers essential.”

They stood silently for two minutes at the gates of several institutions in and around the Spanish capital, holding placards and homemade signs that read “We are fighting without weapons,” “Who cares for the carers” and “Public healthcare can’t be sold.”

The goal is for people to become aware of “the precariousness of our jobs,” said Silvia Garcia, an intensive care unit nurse who joined hundreds of others outside the Gregorio Maranon hospital, adding that “COVID-19 only intensified a situation that we were experiencing before.”

“We need to have the means to care,” said Victor Aparicio, another intensive care nurse at the same hospital. They should be guaranteed that they could rest and protect themselves so that they could carry the work in the best possible conditions, she told reporters.

Care givers said they are exhausted and complained both about staff shortages and a lack of PPE to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. One third of Spain’s cases and deaths have been recorded in the capital, where the health system was on the verge of breaking down at the height of the crisis.

The protesters want the Madrid region to keep on the extra 10,000 staff hired to deal with the pandemic. Officials have only offered guarantees that they will be retained until the end of the year.

Spain has seen one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe but is now gradually easing its lockdown, after the pace of the coronavirus contagion slowed down.

It already requires the wearing of masks on public transport and is now strengthening the rules across the population. Spain has reported almost 26,834 deaths and 235,400 infections according to Johns Hopkins University, but the rate of infection has declined.