Cuba said it has dispatched a brigade of doctors and nurses to Italy to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy.
The medical team of 52 left Havana on Saturday for Italy. This is the first time Cuba has sent an emergency contingent to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries, demonstrating the reach of its medical diplomacy.
It is also the sixth medical brigade Cuba has sent in recent days to combat the spread of the new disease abroad. It has sent contingents to socialist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua as well as Jamaica, Suriname and Grenada.
The Caribbean island has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution. Its doctors were in the front lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in West Africa in the 2010s.
“We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfil, so we take out fear and put it to one side,” Leonardo Fernandez, 68, an intensive care specialist, told Reuters late on Saturday shortly before his brigade’s departure.
“He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheroes, we are revolutionary doctors.” Fernandez said this would be his eighth international mission, including one in Liberia during the fight against ebola.
Italy is the country that has been worst affected by the highly contagious virus that originated in China, with the northern region of Lombardy bearing the brunt of the contagion.
The region’s death toll rose on Saturday by 546 to 3,095, according to its head of welfare, Giulio Gallera, who requested the Cuban doctors.