A team consisting of Cuban and Venezuelan healthcare workers walk during an inspection round in Caracas, Venezuela. Cuba sent 216 healthcare workers to South Africa on Saturday, the latest of more than 20 medical brigades it has sent worldwide to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Manaure Quintero/Reuters
A team consisting of Cuban and Venezuelan healthcare workers walk during an inspection round in Caracas, Venezuela. Cuba sent 216 healthcare workers to South Africa on Saturday, the latest of more than 20 medical brigades it has sent worldwide to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Manaure Quintero/Reuters

217 Cuban healthcare workers on their way to SA to help combat coronavirus

By Reuters Time of article published Apr 26, 2020

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Havana - Cuba sent 217 healthcare

workers to South Africa on Saturday, the latest of more than 20

medical brigades it has sent worldwide to combat the coronavirus

pandemic, in what some call socialist solidarity and others

medical diplomacy.

The Communist-run country has sent around 1,200 healthcare

workers largely to vulnerable African and Caribbean nations but

also to rich European countries such as Italy that have been

particularly hard hit by the novel coronavirus.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has urged

nations not to accept Cuba's medical missions on charges it

exploits its workers, which Havana denies. But the calls have

largely gone unheeded as overwhelmed healthcare systems have

welcomed the help.

Cuba, which has confirmed 1337 cases of the virus at home

and 51 deaths, has one of the world's highest number of doctors

per capita and is renowned for its focus on prevention,

community-oriented primary health care and preparedness to fight

epidemics.

"The advantage of Cuba is that they are a community health

model, one that we would like to use," South African Health

Minister Zweli Mkhize told a news briefing earlier this month.

South Africa has recorded 4,361 cases, including 86 deaths,

with 161,004 people tested for the virus as of Saturday.

The country has a special relationship with Cuba, which

supported the fight against apartheid - a conflict that

included Cuban troops who fought and died in southern Angola.

After Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990, he

repeatedly thanked revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

The "Medical Brigade" arriving in Johannesburg on Sunday on a special SAA flight include family physicians, epidemiologists, biostatists among others, Cuba's embassy in SA wrote on

Twitter.

%%%twitter https://twitter.com/hashtag/Covid_19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Covid_19. See the Embassy Press Release in: https://t.co/lpEd3wl1VA #Cuba #BloqueoNoSolidaridadSi pic.twitter.com/UPt6s9yUSu

— EmbassyCuba_in_ZA (@EmbassyCubaZA)

"These are times of solidarity and cooperation. If we act

together, we can halt the spread of coronavirus in a faster and

more cost effective manner," Cuba's ambassador to South Africa,

Rodolfo Benítez Verson, said in a statement.

Cuba has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites

and disease outbreaks around the world largely in poor countries

since its 1959 leftist revolution. Its doctors were in the front

lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in

West Africa in the 2010s.

Cuba also exports doctors in exchange for cash, often

sending them to remote, impoverished locations where local

doctors do not want to work.

Medical services exports are its top source of hard

currency, ahead of tourism or sugar, despite the governments of

Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador sending their Cuban doctors packing

in recent years after shifting to the right.

Cuba has more than 37,000 health care workers in 67

countries worldwide, according to the foreign ministry. 

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Sunday evening that before departure from Cuba, the medical brigade had been placed in quarantine to ensure

that they minimise any form of exposure prior to coming to South Africa. 

"This is despite the

fact that Cuba is one of the countries where the reported Covid-19 infection rate remains

minimal.

As South Africa, we have taken an additional step which is in line with our lockdown

regulations. This team will be put in precautionary quarantine as they await their test results.

"We will also use this period to fully induct them into the South African situational analysis

and the various provinces they will be deployed to.

Once this process is concluded, His Excellency, President MC Ramaphosa together with

other Ministers will formally welcome the medical brigade to South Africa and also confirm

their allocation to different provinces. 

"We express our sincere appreciation to the Ambassador of Cuba, HE R B Version and his

team in South Africa that have greatly assisted in the coordination of this mission. We have

no doubt our public health facilities will benefit from this generous and selfless gesture by

our Cuban brethren," Mkhize said.

Reuters

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