Nelson Acosta (Reuters) reports that Cuba has sent a brigade of medical personnel to northern Italy:
Communist-run Cuba said it dispatched a brigade of doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy.
The Caribbean island has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution. Its doctors were in 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.
This is the sixth medical brigade Cuba has sent in recent days to combat the spread of the new disease abroad. It has sent contingents 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,” Leonardo Fernandez, 68, an intensive care specialist, told Reuters late on Saturday shortly before his brigade’s departure. “He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheros, we are revolutionary doctors.” Fernandez said this would be his eighth international mission, including one in 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, according to its head of welfare, Giulio Gallera, who requested the Cuban doctors.
We are going to fulfill an honorable task, based on the principle of solidarity,” said Graciliano Díaz, 64.
[Photo above by Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS: Cuban doctors hold an image of late Cuban President Fidel Castro during a farewell ceremony before departing to Italy to assist, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2020.]