KINGSTON, Jamaica – On Saturday (March 21) morning, Jamaica welcomed 140 Cuban medical professionals on the island, to help the country fight COVID-19.
The medical professionals arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport, and were greeted by Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton and Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica, Inés Fors Fernández.
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The Ministry said the team comprises of 90 nurses specialising in critical care, emergency, medical-surgical and primary care; a team of 46 doctors who are internists and haematologists, and four therapists.
In keeping with the government’s current regulations for travel, the entire team will be quarantined for 14 days before being deployed across hospitals islandwide.
Health Minister Christopher Tufton welcomed the group to the island, saying he was encouraged by their need to assist.
“Thank you, Cuba for your quick response to our request for support against COVID-19. Thanks to the local health team who coordinated to get this mission here in just over a month,” said the minister.
A spokesperson for the medical team said Cuba was happy to assist Jamaica, and stressed the importance of solidarity amid the spiraling spread of the virus. “We will assist our sister nation. We are proud of following the principles of the Cuban medical collaboration,” said Eduardo Ropero, head of the 140-member Cuban corps.
“We, along with Cuban doctors already working in Jamaica as part of a bilateral agreement between the two governments, are committed to helping address COVID-19,” he added.
The medical collaboration between Jamaica and Cuba dates back to 1976 when at the request of the Jamaican government, Cuba sent a brigade of 14 doctors to the island. Over the years, Cuba has sent hundreds of medical professionals to Jamaica to assist whenever possible. Jamaica has also returned the favor, sending nurses and doctors to Cuba to assist in times of crisis.
The majority of the current Cuban health workers sent to Jamaica to tackle coronavirus are female doctors and nurses with over 20 years of experience in Cuba’s public health system.
Reports said that on Saturday, Cuba also sent more than 50 medical workers to help with the efforts to curb the coronavirus in Italy, the hardest hit in Europe. Currently, Cuban medical staff are also working in Surinam, Nicaragua and Venezuela to help fight COVID-19.
In recent times, doctors have become Cuba’s biggest export. When former Cuban leader Fidel Castro established a communist regime on the island in the 1950s, universal health care was one of his biggest investments. This led to a booming healthcare system, a higher life expectancy than in the United States, and more doctors per capita. And while Cuba has recorded 21 cases of COVID-19, many countries around the world are looking to the island for answers.
As of Saturday, March 21, Jamaica reported 19 cases of the COVID-19, including one death. The entire country has been declared a disaster area, with schools, bars, entertainment venues, and universities currently closed.
Two communities, Bull Bay in West Rural St Andrew and Corn Piece in South East Clarendon have also been quarantined.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness earlier this week announced that as of March 21, the country’s air and seaports will be closed to incoming traffic for two weeks.