Cuban volunteer medical brigade arrive in Italy to help in battle vs. corona virus

Cuban doctors holding photo of Fidel Castro arrive in Italy

A 52-strong CUBAN medical brigade arrived in Italy March 22 to help in the fight against the corona virus. They were applauded as they arrived in hospitals in north Italy where they would assist Italian doctors and nurses.

This is the sixth similar mission that socialist Cuba dispatched to assist other countries with the corona virus pandemic. Apart from missions to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Suriname and Grenada, this mission to Italy is Cuba’s first ever mission to a much richer country.

“We are all afraid, but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we take out fear and put it to one side,” intensive care specialist Leonardo Fernandez told Reuters.

“He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheroes, we are revolutionary doctors.”

We are going to fulfill an honorable task, based on the principle of solidarity,” said Graciliano Díaz, 64.

Cuba built a healthcare system that remains to be the envy of the developing world with economic aid from former ally, the former Soviet Union. Many Cuban hospitals, however, have fallen into disrepair and Cubans say they have difficulty finding medicine, a situation the government says is largely due to decades-old U.S. sanctions.

Still, Cuba has one of the highest ratios worldwide of physicians per capita even when excluding those doctors abroad, and its medical brigades for disaster relief continue to earn Havana goodwill worldwide.

Back home, Cuba, which is known for its disaster preparedness, is also stepping up measures to stem the corona virus contagion. Twenty-five cases have been confirmed so far.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel announced recently the country would be closing its borders to foreign non-residents from Tuesday in a major blow to one of the motors of its cash-strapped economy, tourism.

Thousands of doctors and medicine students are also going door-to-door monitoring their local communities.

Chinese medical missions and planeloads of medical equipment have already been sent to Italy, and Russia also responded to appeals for help by agreeing to send military medics and special disinfectant vehicles.

The aid came as Italy’s death toll from the virus rose above 4,800, with over 53,000 confirmed cases. Spain recorded another 3,600 new cases from Saturday to Sunday, bringing its total to 28,572 infections and 1,720 deaths.# (Pinoy Abrod from reports from Morning Star-UK and National Post-Toronto)

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