'Cubans are experts Covid-19 fighters'

Cuban health specialists after landing in SA through the Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria yesterday. They're here on SA government's request for support to curb the spread of Covid-19. /Elmond Jiyane/ GCIS
Cuban health specialists after landing in SA through the Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria yesterday. They're here on SA government's request for support to curb the spread of Covid-19. /Elmond Jiyane/ GCIS

More than 200 Cuban doctors who jetted into the country yesterday are world-renowned Covid-19 experts who will be deployed where they're needed the most across the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said the 217 health specialists and workers arrived following a request he made to his Cuban counterpart President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The Cuban medical professionals, clad in white overalls and face masks, landed at the Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria on Sunday.

Ramaphosa said in a statement yesterday that the group consisted of experts in the fields of epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health.

They also included family physicians who will guide SA's interventions through door-to-door testing and assist local health workers in health promotion and disease surveillance at community level. Health care technology engineers will assist their South African counterparts in maintaining the inventory, deployment and repair of aged medical equipment.

The health department said the Cuban health professionals would be deployed where they were needed the most, mainly in the Western Cape and Gauteng.

The department's spokesperson, Popo Maja, said they will be working very closely with South African doctors to impart knowledge.

"We will deploy them according to where the needs are and their deployment is going to be much more easier than the deployment of our own doctors because they don't have families here so it'll be easier to move them from one province to the other," Maja said.

He said the doctors had been in Italy and would be reinforcing what SA has in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"These doctors have assisted the Italian government to manage their [Covid-19] cases... some of them will be in the army, assisting with building capacity in the army and the rest will assist in public hospitals," Maja said. "The nature of our pandemic requires we get more doctors, but right now we needed these guys who are recognised internationally, who have experience in pandemics of this nature."

Ramaphosa said the "strong and historic relations between the two countries has seen bilateral agreements and technical co-operation in many areas, including health, human settlements, public works, infrastructure development, water resource management, sanitation and basic education, among others".

"The deployment of Cuban doctors, engineers and technical experts in all the provinces of South Africa rendering important services, is a demonstration of the strategic partnership and solidarity between South Africa and Cuba and a good example of South-South co-operation," Ramaphosa added.

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