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Cuban doctors in quarantine ahead of deployment


‘We’re not going to wait until we have a crisis before doing what we need to do’

THE 217 Cuban medical doctors who landed in the country over the weekend have been sent straight to quarantine at a Pretoria hotel, in line with the standard protocol set for those travelling into the country during the Covid-19 crisis, the Department of Health said.

On Monday Department of Health spokesperson Dr Lwazi Manzi said that the Cuban medical brigade doctors, who had been quarantined in Cuba before travelling to South Africa, would be sent into quarantine at a Pretoria hotel for a period that could last up to 14 days.

The team from Cuba, which landed at the Waterkloof military airbase on Sunday evening, consists of epidemiologists, family physicians, biotechnology experts, healthcare technology engineers and biostaticians.

Currently South Africa has 4 546 identified positive cases of the novel coronavirus with 87 recorded deaths due to the virus, with KwaZulu-Natal accounting for 863 positive cases and 29 deaths.

The hardest hit district in KZN has been eThekwini, which has recorded 579 cases and 25 deaths, leading to the provincial government announcing on Sunday that level 5 of the lockdown would remain intact in the district. 

With the Cuban doctors now undergoing quarantine, Manzi said that after they are out of quarantine and have tested negative they would be deployed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to various spots across the country.

Manzi said that the Cuban doctors being sent into quarantine was part of the country’s regulations which stipulate that nobody comes into the country without first undergoing quarantine.  

“The quarantine may not necessarily be 14 days because they were already quarantined back home, so it’s really actually about us testing them and then waiting for those test results,” Manzi said. 

With Italy gripped by the virus and an alarming death rate, Cuba also sent 52 of its medics to the country last month as Italy battled to cope with a fast paced rate of infection and increasing death toll.

However, Manzi said that the South African government had requested the assistance of the Cubans because the country did not want to first get to an infection rate and death toll as high as that experienced by countries like Italy, Spain and the United States of America.

“We’re not going to wait until we have a crisis before doing what we need to do. Italy waited until they had a crisis before they started calling for help and it’s the same with Spain,”  said Manzi. 

Trade union Cosatu said that the arrival of the Cuban medical brigade was a great act of altruistic solidarity from the Cuba.

Cosatu International Secretary, Sonia Mabunda-Kaziboni In healthcare, said that Cuba had been a huge support to South Africa with the Cuban medical internationalism programme from 1996 to 2002, which began with the deployment of more than 450 Cuban doctors and medical lecturers. 

“It extended to the enrolment of South African students for medical training under the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro collaboration. Under the auspices of the 2012 Agreement on Cooperation in the Fields of Public Health and Medical Sciences, more than 3,000 South African students have received medical training in Cuba,” said Mabunda-Kaziboni.