HAVANA, March 28 (Xinhua) — Cuba on Saturday sent a team of 39 doctors and nurses to Andorra, the thirteenth medical brigade the country has dispatched overseas to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The medical help came as health authorities in Andorra have reported four deaths and a total of 308 confirmed cases due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Only solidarity among peoples can be effective to combat coronavirus globally,” Marcia Cobas, Cuba’s deputy minister of public health, told Xinhua.
Cuba’s latest medical assistance marked the first time that the health experts from the country’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade have worked in Europe in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic.
Founded in 2005 by then Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, the Henry Reeve Brigade was created to provide health services to Americans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, only to be refused by the George W. Bush administration.
Before sending medical workers to Andorra, Cuba had already dispatched contingents of doctors and nurses to Venezuela, neighboring Latin American and Caribbean nations, as well as Italy, where Cuban and Chinese health workers have been helping the locals in the hard-hit Lombardy region.
“They are working very hard and helping the Italian people go through this difficult situation,” said Jorge Hidalgo, director of the Cuban Central Unit for Medical Collaboration, adding that more than 850 health professionals from Cuba have been sent abroad to help fight COVID-19.
Among those are health workers with expertise in providing medical treatment to people affected by natural disasters as well as disease outbreaks such as cholera in Haiti and the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.
“We share what we have,” Jorge Luis Hernandez, a 62-year-old doctor, told Xinhua.
Santiago Badia, general secretary of Cuba’s Health Workers Union, said 45 countries have so far asked the Caribbean nation for support in the face of the coronavirus epidemic.
“Over half a million Cuban health professionals have expressed their readiness to assist, if necessary, nations hit by COVID-19,” he said.
Earlier this month, Cuban doctors also participated in a humanitarian operation, answering a request by the British government to allow a cruise ship carrying five passengers who had tested positive for COVID-19 to disembark on the island so they could be repatriated to their country.
Currently, more than 28,000 Cuban health professionals are working abroad as part of bilateral agreements with more than 60 countries.
Since 1963 when a ravaging earthquake hit Algeria, Cuba’s international medical collaboration has expanded to more than 164 countries, with some 400,000 health workers from the island nation having offered medical treatment across the globe.