Student doctors studying in Cuba are in fear that they could contract the coronavirus (Covid-19) as they are "mandated" to continue with their community services File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)
Student doctors studying in Cuba are in fear that they could contract the coronavirus (Covid-19) as they are "mandated" to continue with their community services File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

SA student doctors studying in Cuba fearful of contracting coronavirus

By Siboniso Mngadi Time of article published Mar 22, 2020

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Durban - South African student doctors studying in Cuba are in fear that they could contract the coronavirus (Covid-19) as they are "mandated" to continue with their community services while the virus surges.

As a precautionary measure, the Cuban government has suspended classes in universities. 

Although confirmed cases were relatively low in Cuba, SA students stressed that they were at a high risk of contamination as they do door-to-door services without protective gear.

There are about 3000 South African students in the Department of Health's Cuban doctor training programme which began over two decades ago.

As of Friday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Cuba rose to 21 on – 10 of those were foreigners – with 716 people hospitalized on suspicion of having the disease, according to the health ministry - the National Post reported.

Cuba has barred foreign visitors from entering the country for a month starting Tuesday in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

A local medical student who asked not to be named fearing reprisal said they were unhappy that they had to do door-to-door while they were not provided with protective gear.

He said there were other precautionary measures imposed by the Cuban government.

“We are also scared of the virus, how can you go door-to-door without protection?

"It does not matter that we students doctors but our safety must be a priority,” he said.

The students said most people suspected to have been infected were foreigners but that was yet to be confirmed.

“There are about 100 Cubans who have suspected [of contracting the virus] the rest is us (foreigners)... But it is strange that they still want us to go out in communities for services, we are angry about that,” he added.

Regarding repatriation, the students said they have heard from the South African government.

“We normally come home in July, there is no one leaving during this period. “Some of the flights have been cancelled but I have not checked the South African routes. I have been told that they will be a meeting this week so maybe there will be a new development,” he added.

Agiza Hlongwane, Spokesperson for KZN Department of Health said it was too early to repatriate students since most come in July. He said the department was monitoring the situation and will act accordingly if there were challenges.

Sunday Tribune

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