News World Cuban doctors head to Italy battle coronavirus

Cuban doctors head to Italy battle coronavirus

Communist-run Cuba said it dispatched a brigade of doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy.

The Caribbean island has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution. Its doctors were in the front lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in West Africa in the 2010s.

Yet with the 52-strong brigade, this is the first time Cuba has sent an emergency contingent to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries, demonstrating the reach of its medical diplomacy.

This is the sixth medical brigade Cuba has sent in recent days to combat the spread of the new disease abroad. It has sent contingents to socialist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua as well as Jamaica, Suriname and Grenada.

“We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we take out fear and put it to one side,” Leonardo Fernandez, 68, an intensive care specialist, told Reuters late on Saturday shortly before his brigade’s departure.

“He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheros, we are revolutionary doctors.”

Fernandez said this would be his eighth international mission, including one in Liberia during the fight against ebola.

Italy is the country that has been worst affected by the highly contagious virus that originated in China, with the northern region of Lombardy bearing the brunt of the contagion.

Its death toll rose on Saturday by 546 to 3,095, according to its head of welfare, Giulio Gallera, who requested the Cuban doctors.

We are going to fulfill an honorable task, based on the principle of solidarity,” said Graciliano Díaz, 64.

Cuba built a healthcare system that was the envy of the developing world with economic aid from former ally Soviet Union, though some of those advances have been lost since the communist bloc collapsed.

Many Cuban hospitals have fallen into disrepair and Cubans say they have difficulty finding medicine, a situation the government says is largely due to decades-old U.S. sanctions although analysts blame also the inefficient state-run economy.

Still, Cuba has one of the highest ratios worldwide of physicians per capita even when excluding those doctors abroad, and its medical brigades for disaster relief continue to earn Havana goodwill worldwide.

“In a time of crisis, the Cuban government, the Cuban people … have risen to the occasion, they have heard our appeal and they have responded,” Jamaican Health Minister Christopher Tufton said on Saturday upon greeting 140 Cuban medical professionals at Kingston international airport.

Britain also thanked Cuba last week for allowing a British cruise ship that had been turned away by several Caribbean ports to dock on the island and for enabling the evacuation of the more than 600 passengers onboard.

Meanwhile Cuba, which is known for its disaster preparedness, is stepping up measures at home too to stem the coronavirus contagion. Twenty-five cases have been confirmed so far.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel announced late on Friday the country would be closing its borders to foreign non-residents from Tuesday in a major blow to one of the motors of its cash-strapped economy, tourism.

Thousands of doctors and medicine students are also going door-to-door monitoring their local communities.

(Reuters)

Top Stories

France recalls ambassador to Ankara over Erdogan comments

  France condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks questioning the mental health of President Macron and recalled its ambassador to Ankara for consultations. The French...

130 cases today, most from private initiative-28 patients in hospital

  One hundred and thirty new Covid-19 cases were announced today, out of 4 thousand 285 tests, taking the total number of confirmed patients to...

Greece approaches four-digit covid cases, 935 today

  The second coronavirus wave is climaxing in Greece as it recorded 935 cases today, the highest number since the second wave begun gathering pace...

Erdogan says Macron needs ‘mental treatment’ over attitude to Muslims

  Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan launched yet another scathing tirade of insults on his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, saying he needed mental treatment over his...

We are independent, Michaelides tells AG over golden passports

  We are not under anyone's custodianship, the Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides told Attorney General Yiorgos Savvides, who earlier called on his office to stay...

Taste

Squash soup

Ingredients: 1 kg pumpkin, cut into small cubes, approximately 5 cups 2 medium (400g) sweet potatoes, cut into cubes, approximately 2 ½ cups 1 chopped leek, only...

Mezedes

No visit to Cyprus is complete without enjoying the traditional meal of many small dishes known as ‘meze’. This large feast, which has been a...

Prawns with fried cheese, barley shaped pasta

Put the barley shaped pasta into a small pan with salted water, bring to a boil and when tender, drain. Peal the prawns leaving...

Salmon and shrimp sheftalies

Mix all ingredients for tabbouli in a bowl and keep to one side so flavours can combine. Prepare the sheftalies: wash and soak the casing...