Cuba, regarded as one of the nations with the best healthcare systems in the world, sent a brigade of medical workers to Lombardy, Italy, this week. Upon the government’s request, the Caribbean country dispatched 36 doctors and 15 nurses to the city to help in the fight against the deadly COVID-19.
The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the worst and the best in people during the last few months. Thankfully, there is more of the good than bad, as we see several able individuals performing a variety of valiant efforts for their countrymen amid this global crisis.
Italy has become the country with the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in the world, overtaking China, which is where the virus originated. The northern region of Lombardy bore the brunt of this contagion.
Due to the growing number of infected cases reported each day, Italy’s hospitals are struggling to treat patients. This unprecedented situation compelled the government to send a request to Cuba to send in their highly-skilled medical personnel.
Cuba is not new to the act of sending doctors to other countries for relief efforts. Since its 1959 revolution, the country has sent its physicians to disaster sites around the world. Cuban doctors were in the frontlines fighting against cholera in Haiti and against Ebola in West Africa.
However, this is the first time Cuba has sent a brigade of doctors and nurses in Italy, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, attesting to the reach of its medical diplomacy. The group headed to Lombardy is the sixth unit the country has sent in recent days to help battle the spread of the new disease abroad. Cuban contingents were also assigned to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Suriname, and Grenada.
Leonardo Fernandez, a 68-year-old intensive care specialist, spoke to Reuters shortly before their group’s departure.
“We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we take out fear and put it to one side,” he said. “He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheroes, we are revolutionary doctors.”
On Saturday, Italy’s death toll rose by 546 to 3,095, according to its head of welfare, Giulio Gallera, who requested Cuban doctors.
“We are going to fulfill an honorable task, based on the principle of solidarity,” said Graciliano Díaz, 64, one of the contingents.
Cuba’s medical brigade arrived at the Milan Malpensa Airport Sunday afternoon and were met with applause by the people in the airport.
Meanwhile, the Cuban government is stepping up its measures to contain the spread of the virus. So far, there have been 24 confirmed cases in the country. President Miguel Diaz-Canel declared on Friday that Cuba would be closing its borders to foreign non-residents. Thousands of doctors and medical students are also conducting door-to-door visits to monitor their local communities.
These Cuban doctors could have chosen to stay at home and keep themselves safe from the virus. Instead, they volunteered to be part of the ‘armies in white’ who are fighting this deadly virus. Indeed, they are superheroes in their own right!
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We are praying that all frontliners during this global crisis remain safe and strong. We can only imagine the fear, distress, and discomfort they experience every single day to serve patients in need. The least we can do is follow their advice and stay inside our homes.