Why South Africa invited over 200 Cuban doctors to fight COVID-19

Despite warnings by the United States government that countries not to accept Cuban medical missions, 216 Cuban doctors arrived in South Africa in the early hours of Monday morning to support the country's fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S had accussed Cuba of exploiting its medics, an allegation the country has denied. It appears the U.S warnings fell on deaf ears as many nations are more concerned about fighting COVID-19 than turning down medical aid from Cuba.

Cuba has sent more than 1,000 doctors to 22 countries, including Togo, Cape Verde and Angola, as well as Italy.

The doctors, including community health and infectious disease specialists, arrived Johannesburg in a plane sent by South Africa to deliver some medical supplies to Cuba. South Africa presently has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa – 4,546 and 87 deaths after conducting nearly 170,000 tests.

According to Reuters, South Africa has a special relationship with Cuba, which supported the fight against apartheid – a conflict that included Cuban troops who fought and died in southern Angola. After Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990, he repeatedly thanked revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

Cuba's ambassador to South Africa, Rodolfo Benítez Verson said the doctors are to be deployed to different provinces by South Africa's Department of Health. They will stay in a two-week quarantine before starting work.

"The advantage of Cuba is that they are a community health model, one that we would like to use," South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told a news briefing earlier this month.

Unlike South Africa which has almost one doctor for every 1,000 people, Cuba has the world's highest ratio of doctors to population.

Back at home, Cuba has 1,337 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 51 deaths and began preparing for the virus early. Cuban doctors were also in the front lines in the fight against Ebola in West Africa in 2014.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, a team of 15 Chinese medical professionals also arrived in Abuja on Wednesday April 8 with medical equipment worth about $1.5 million to support the country's fight against the deadly virus.

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