Communist Cuba sends its medical brigade to Italy


Cuba said it sent an emergency contingent of doctors and nurses to help fight the novel coronavirus in Italy's Lombardy district.

This is the sixth medical brigade Cuba has sent in recent days to combat the spread of the new disease abroad, highlighting its medical diplomacy.

The 52-strong brigade arrived at Italy's Malpensa airport, near Milan, Italy on Sunday as Italy reported 28,370 COVID-19 cases and 4,825 deaths.

Italy has been devastated by the highly contagious disease with the northern region of Lombardy the worst hit.  Russia has sent eight mobile teams of virologists to Italy. Russian President spoke to Italian premier Giuseppe Conte and offered to send mobile disinfection vehicles and experts.

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte accepted Vladimir Putin's offer of armed forces personnel, vehicles and equipment.

The gesture happens at a time when many Cuban hospitals are facing difficulties in finding medicine largely due to decades-old U.S. sanctions although analysts blame also the inefficient state-run economy.

“We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfil, 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.

Though Cuba has sent emergency contingents to its socialist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua as well as Jamaica, Suriname and Grenada, this is the first time that the Caribbean island sent a medical contingent to Italy, a country outside its block.

“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.

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