'Cluster outbreaks' in Western Cape to be tackled with Cuban medical brigade support
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Cape Town – The historic ties between South Africa and Cuba were further strengthened yesterday with the arrival of 217 Cuban health professionals, known as the Cuban Medical Brigade, to boost the country’s efforts to beat Covid-19.
“The theme for this year’s #FreedomDay is: ‘Solidarity and the Triumph of the Human Spirit in Challenging Times’.
“It is fitting that on this day we should welcome Cuban health experts who have arrived in our country to support our efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In welcoming the team, Ramaphosa described the deployment of Cuban experts to all nine provinces as a show of the strategic partnership and solidarity between South Africa and Cuba.
“Over 732 South Africans, many from previously disadvantaged communities, received their first five years of medical training in Cuba and have qualified as doctors since the inception of the Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro medical training programme in 1997.
“Many others continue receiving medical training in Cuba, and will also provide in the coming years much-needed primary health-care services to their local communities,” Ramaphosa said.
Cuban ambassador to South Africa Rodolfo Benitez Verson said the mission was a demonstration of the legacy of historical leaders Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela, and representative of the internationalist values of the Cuban Revolution.
Castro sent thousands of Cuban troops to Angola in response to
apartheid South Africa’s invasion of the country in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale 32 years ago.
“There cannot be a more honourable mission than the one that has been entrusted to you. You will help to save many lives of South African brothers and sisters. This will be remembered forever by this grateful people,” Verson told the brigade.
The team included family physicians, epidemiologists, biostatistics, healthcare technology engineers, and biotechnology experts.
"They are once again in precautionary quarantine as they await their test results. Once that process has finished, Ramaphosa, together with other ministers, will confirm their allocation to different provinces.
Among the provinces that will be under sharp focus will be the Western Cape, the country’s new Covid-19 epicentre.
Up to this point, the Western Cape is not part of the programme to train South African doctors in Cuba, having been highly critical of that nation.
The province overtook Gauteng on Friday, with numbers of infections climbing in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain.
In a briefing yesterday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said there have been “cluster outbreaks” in the province, specifically at essential services workplaces.
The province has recorded 1618 confirmed cases.
“The province has also recorded one more death, a 63-year-old woman with additional medical conditions
bringing the total number of deaths
to 33. We send our condolences to
her loved ones at this time,” said
Premier Alan Winde.
He visited the testing and triage centre at Khayelitsha Hospital
It was one of 17 facilities which
will be rolled out in the province to
relieve the pressure on emergency
services and allow for patients to be
Provincial health spokesperson
Mark van der Heever said they had
seen an increase in cases across all
“Our current planning
incorporates all available beds in
both public and private sectors.
We still expect a shortfall of the
pandemic, and are planning some
additional temporary space for acute
hospital beds at intermediary level.
“Currently a total capacity of
about 1 100 extra acute beds are
being provisioned outside existing
facilities. The department will also
repurpose existing space in facilities
for higher-care levels.
department is using a modelling
frame to support the planning and
procurement for this is under way,”
Khayelitsha Development Forum
(KDF) chairperson Ndithini Tyhido
welcomed the arrival of Cuban
doctors and urged the residents to
co-operate with the government
during the lockdown.
“The KDF commits itself to work
with all three spheres of government
in dealing with the spread of the
virus,” said Tyhido.
Social Justice Coalition general secretary Axolile Notywala said: “The
reason why the virus is spreading
quickly in populated townships is
because they are dense.
“Not enough has been done on
all levels of government to stop the
spread of the virus in the townships,
they need to prioritise them,” said