Cuba has dispatched doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend to help fight COVID-19 at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy, it said.
The Caribbean nation has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution, with doctors on the front lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in West Africa in the 2010s.
Yet with the 52-strong brigade, this is the first time Cuba has sent an emergency contingent to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries, demonstrating the reach of its medical diplomacy.
In recent days, Cubas has also sent contingents to combat the spread of COVID-19 to socialist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua as well as Jamaica, Suriname and Grenada.
“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, 68, said late on Saturday shortly before his departure.
“He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheroes, we are revolutionary doctors,” he said.
Fernandez said this would be his eighth international mission, including one to Liberia during the fight against ebola.
Italy is the country that has been worst affected by the highly contagious virus that originated in China, with the northern region of Lombardy bearing the brunt of the contagion.
Its death toll rose on Saturday by 546 to 3,095, said Lombardy Health and Welfare Regional Minister Giulio Gallera, who requested the Cuban doctors.
“We are going to fulfill an honorable task, based on the principle of solidarity,” Graciliano Diaz, 64, said.
Cuba built a healthcare system that was the envy of the developing world with economic aid from former ally the Soviet Union, though some of those advances have been lost since the communist bloc collapsed.
Many of its hospitals have fallen into disrepair and Cubans say they have difficulty finding medicine, a situation the government says is largely due to decades-old US sanctions, but analysts also blame the inefficient state-run economy.
Still, it 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.
“In a time of crisis, the Cuban government, the Cuban people ... have risen to the occasion, they have heard our appeal and they have responded,” Jamaican Health Minister Christopher Tufton said upon greeting 140 Cuban medical professionals at Kingston international airport.
Britain also thanked Cuba last week for allowing a British cruise ship that had been turned away by several Caribbean ports to dock on the island and for enabling the evacuation of the more than 600 passengers onboard.
Meanwhile, Cuba, which is known for its disaster preparedness, is stepping up measures at home to stem the virus, as 25 cases have been confirmed so far.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel announced late on Friday that the country would close its borders to foreign nonresidents from tomorrow in a major blow to tourism, an important sector of its cash-strapped economy.
Thousands of doctors and medicine students are also going door-to-door monitoring their local communities.
Similarly, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to send medical aid in the form of mobile disinfection vehicles, specialists and other medical equipment to Italy from yesterday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Russia has reported 306 cases of the virus, most of them in Moscow, and one coronavirus-related death.
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures