A man wearing a military uniform salutes during the playing of Cuba's national anthem on May Day, or International Workers' Day, outside a health centre in Havana. Picture: Ramon Espinosa/AP
A man wearing a military uniform salutes during the playing of Cuba's national anthem on May Day, or International Workers' Day, outside a health centre in Havana. Picture: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Cuba dedicates subdued May Day to 'white coat army' of doctors fighting Covid-19

By Sarah Marsh And Mario Fuentes Time of article published May 1, 2020

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Havana - With Communist-run Cuba on

lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Havana's Revolution

Square was eerily empty and gray on Friday for International

Workers Day, bereft of the usual parade of thousands of

flag-toting Cubans.

Encouraged by authorities to celebrate May Day in their

homes, some Cubans sung along to the national anthem when it was

played on state television early in the morning, while others

strung the Cuban flag from their balconies and windows.

Ulises Guilarte, of the Cuban Workers' Confederation, said

on the TV broadcast that the day was dedicated to the "army of

white coats" - Cuba's doctors - tackling the coronavirus

pandemic at home and abroad.

Cuba, which has one of the highest rates of doctors per

capita worldwide and has engaged in medical diplomacy and

service exports for decades, has sent brigades of doctors to

more than 20 countries worldwide to help.

"We hold the most firm conviction that united, we will

conquer," Guilarte said, using an old revolutionary slogan.

An army officer wearing a mask as a precaution amid the spread of the new coronavirus takes a photo with his phone in front of an image of Cuban revolutionary icon, Argentine Ernesto "Che" Guevara, at Revolution Plaza in Havana, Cuba. Picture: Ramon Espinosa/AP

"#MyHomeIsMySquare, celebrating the first of May," President

Miguel Diaz-Canel wrote on Twitter, posting a photo of him with

his arm around his wife in front of a Cuban flag, both wearing

white face masks embroidered with the word 'Cuba.'

It was an altogether more subdued affair than the rallies in

which millions of Cubans nationwide have participated each year

since late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro's 1959 leftist

revolution. Even the weather was downcast.

Cuba has only skipped the largest parade through Revolution

Square a handful of times, such as during an economic depression

following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A woman claps from her home's balcony in celebration of May Day, or International Workers' Day, in Havana, Cuba. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Cuban government called off May Day celebrations, an event that showcases a huge rally and march in Revolution Square. Picture: Ismael Francisco/AP

"Unfortunately the coronavirus has kept us at home but we

were not about to ignore (May Day)," said Havana resident

Alejandra Varo Carrillo, who waved the Cuban flag from her

rooftop.

Since the island nation registered its first cases of the

coronavirus in March, it has closed borders to travelers, and

suspended schools, public transport, and group activities.

While many sectors of the economy continue, authorities have

asked residents to otherwise only leave their homes for

essential tasks like shopping for food.

A poster of Fidel Castro with the Spanish phrase "For Cuba, united we overcome" hangs next to a sign encouraging people to stay home on May Day, or International Workers' Day, in Havana, Cuba. Picture: Ismael Francisco/AP

With less than 1,600 cases confirmed and 64 deaths, Cuba's

leaders have said their approach appears to be working, but have

warned the peak of the outbreak is still ahead. 

Reuters

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