A contingent of 217 Cuban health specialists arrived in South Africa on Sunday night to support efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS
A contingent of 217 Cuban health specialists arrived in South Africa on Sunday night to support efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

'Cluster outbreaks' in Western Cape to be tackled with Cuban medical brigade support

By Francesca Villette, Odwa Mkentane Time of article published Apr 28, 2020

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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. 

'The health

department is using a modelling

frame to support the planning and

procurement for this is under way,”

he said. 

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


Cape Times

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