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