200 Cuban medics to help SA fight Covid-19

Just over 200 Cubans, including doctors, are on their way to South Africa to assist in the battle against the spread of Covid-19.

The medical personnel will land at OR Tambo International Airport on Sunday and will go straight into quarantine for 14 days in Pretoria. About 30 Cubans will be assigned to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the rest will assist the department of health. 

“These are doctors who have been to Europe and elsewhere, who understand the signs and symptoms of the virus and the clinical management of the Covid-19 and how to treat it,” said health department spokesperson Popo Maja.

Their arrival follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that South Africa’s now five-week national lockdown will be eased. From May 1, there will be a phased reopening of the economy. 

He also said he had deployed more than 70 000 SANDF personnel to assist in the response to Covid-19. Ramaphosa said the defence force assistance will not be limited to supporting the police in enforcing lockdown regulations but will include providing health services, infrastructure maintenance and water. 

Early this month the government said it had met the Cuban ambassador to South Africa, Rodolfo Benitez, in March and that the Cubans had shown interest in providing assistance. 

At the time of publishing there were 4 220 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 79 deaths and 1 473 recoveries.  

One of the most worrying provinces in the country is the Eastern Cape, where Health Minister Zweli Mkhize had to intervene and send a team to assist with the tracing, screening and testing of people, particularly in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality. 

On Tuesday, the province’s numbers rose to about 10% of the national infection tally and Mkhize said more medical specialists, including epidemiologists, analysts and field consultants should be deployed there. About 200 cases of Covid-19 have been linked to three funerals in that province, as people fail to adhere to lockdown regulations and continue to gather in big numbers. 

In Port Elizabeth alone 160 cases have been registered as result of two funerals, and the 40 cases in the coastal town of Port St Johns are also linked to a funeral. 

The arrival of the Cubans in the country could assist with curbing the spread of the virus particularly in the provinces where the numbers are increasing rapidly. 

On Thursday night, Ramaphosa said there would be a smart lockdown, with provinces and regions going through different levels of measures depending on how Covid-19 is spreading. This could mean that some provinces are seeing a more severe lockdown than their neighbours. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Thanduxolo Jika
Thanduxolo Jika

Thanduxolo Jika is an investigative Journalist and Co-Author of We are going to kill each other today:The Marikana Story. The Messiah of Abantu.

Related stories


Subscribers only

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

Pandemic hobbles learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

More top stories

Egypt, Seychelles get first jabs

The two countries have rolled out China’s Sinopharm vaccine, but data issues are likely to keep some countries from doing the same

Fashion’s future is bricks and clicks

Lockdown forced reluctant South African clothing retail stores online: although foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores remains important in a mall culture like ours, the secret to success is innovation

What the Biden presidency may mean for Africa

The new US administration has an interest and much expertise in Africa. But given the scale of the priorities the administration faces, Africa must not expect to feature too prominently

Zuma, Zondo play the waiting game

The former president says he will talk once the courts have ruled, but the head of the state capture inquiry appears resigned to letting the clock run out as the commission's deadline nears

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…