TORONTO -- In the hardest-hit country outside of China, messages of kindness and encouragement are spreading during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quarantined Italians broke out in applause from windows and balconies, reportedly a show of support for health-care workers in a country that has seen more than 21,000 infections and 1,400 deaths as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Italy has been on a country-wide lockdown for nearly a week.

In video shared online, Italians filled apartment blocks and alleys with songs from their balconies, singing traditional patriotic folk songs and more popular fare. Others painted signs to hang alongside the country’s flag reading “Tutto andra bene” -- everything will be all right.

"Overall, the spirits are high," said Miranda Gallo, a Canadian student in Italy. "There's a good sense of national unity and community, solidarity, with singing and dancing on balconies."

Similar messages of lightheartedness have popped up this month around the world. A South African choir filmed a video of an energetic performance of a song with lyrics like “Wash your hands” and “Don’t touch your face.” Some U.S. singers have shared videos in a social media “challenge” showing proper hand-washing technique, including Gloria Gaynor and Mariah Carey singing their own hit songs.

Some NBA athletes have donated money to help hourly workers who were staffed at arenas where all gameplay has been postponed. Rudy Gobert, the first league player to contract the virus, donated US$200,000 to part-time staff at a Salt Lake City facility. The Utah Jazz centre apologized to fans last week after video showed him jokingly touching every microphone at a press conference table before he was diagnosed.

Simpler community action is taking place too. In Toronto, a man was giving away hand sanitizer for free on the city streets. Some major online retailers recently blocked hundreds of vendors from profiting off emergency supplies. The man, Deepak Thapar, held a sign on the sidewalk that said he was offering the supplies for free. He wasn’t selling it. “Money can’t buy life,” the sign read.

"I'm here to distribute and help community," Thapar told CTV News.