Cuban ‘brigade’ here and ready to battle virus

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Cuban ambassador Maria Cabreja and Health Minister Molwyn Joseph
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By Gemma Handy

The fight against coronavirus has received a major boost in the shape of 31 Cuban medics who are now on the ground and ready for action in Antigua.

The ‘brigade’ of expert doctors and nurses jetted in on a Venezuelan plane yesterday afternoon, following a plea for help from the Antigua and Barbuda government.

The Communist nation’s world-renowned healthcare system is now assisting an incredible 37 countries across the globe battle Covid-19.

Despite the virus’s rapid-fire contagion, latest information suggests not a single Cuban medic working overseas has to date fallen sick with the respiratory illness, Cuban ambassador Maria Cabreja told Observer.

“That’s why proper protection for them is so important, because in order to help, they have to be safe,” she said.

Cabreja said Cuba was happy to show “solidarity” with Antigua and Barbuda, which is already home to dozens of Cuban doctors.

The incoming medics are specialists in managing infectious diseases. Some have assisted in Africa with the fight against Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses the world has ever seen.

They will be assigned to boost staff numbers at Mount St John’s Medical Centre and the Margetson Ward, currently being repurposed for use as a quarantine and isolation facility.

“The doctors have a lot of experience working in many other countries,” Cabreja continued.

“Maybe their English is not perfect but they can understand. But better than that they have the sensibility and the desire to help people and that’s the most important thing and that’s why I am so proud of them,” the ambassador added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chet Greene told Observer that Cuba’s help was a result of the “strong relationship” between the two countries.

“Cabinet asked me to reach out and Cuba very readily responded. I want to thank the Cuban government for once again assisting us in our plight, notwithstanding their own challenges,” he said.

Cuba had almost 60 confirmed cases of Covid-19 itself, up to press time last night. Antigua and Barbuda’s latest count is seven.

Health Minister Molwyn Joseph said the brigade would remain in the country as long as was necessary. He said the ministry would be following recommendations from the World Health Organization and regional public health body PAHO to ensure the team’s safety.

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