CORONA PANDEMIC —Two countries on a different spectacle

CUBA

Despite the severe constraints it faces as a result of the United States-imposed economic blockade, Cuba has not shied away from extending solidarity with the world in the unprecedented challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It continues to illustrate international health care solidarity in its response to the COVID-19 crisis.  By end March, Cuba had dispatched medical teams to over 59 affected countries. A team of 53 Cuban specialists trained in epidemiology reached the Lombardy region, the epicentre of the epidemic in Italy, at the height of the pandemic to provide invaluable support to Italy’s beleaguered medical infrastructure. A team of 39 Cuban medical professionals were also dispatched to the tiny principality of Andorra, wedged between France and Spain, whose doctors were all down with suspected COVID-19. (Frontline 24-04-20) The island nation has sent brigades of doctors and supplies to Italy, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Suriname and Grenada. Cuba has 28,268 members of medical brigades working in 61 countries around the world, according to Dr. Jorge Hidalgo Bustillo, director of the Central Unit for Medical Collaboration. All of them are COVID-19 negative and are being monitored daily.  Despite the ravages caused to the economy by the sixty-year-old U.S. blockade, the Cuban health care system is in finer fettle than many other affluent countries including the U. S. Health care is universal and free in Cuba, unlike in the U.S., the world’s richest country.

Cuba’s socialist regime has been able to sustain a medical system that guarantees free and comprehensive health care. There are at least eight doctors for every 1,000 citizens—the highest ratio in the world. No country, including the U.S., can boast of such numbers. India has one doctor for every 10,000 citizens. The WHO recommends that a country should have at least one doctor for every 1,000. Notably, the United States has been criminally negligent in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and in testing and treating its own people.

Through a joint venture with China, Cuba is producing large quantities of an antiviral medicine called Interferon Alpha 2b. This vital drug is “recognized as one of the most effective medicines in treating this virus. It is credited with saving 1,500 people from [dying of] the virus in China alone … and Cuba’s producer of medicines, Bio CubaFarma, is producing 21 other compatible medicines for the treatment of complications that may arise in patients with COVID-19.”

The Cubans gave permission for the British cruise ship — the MS Braemar with five confirmed cases of COVID-19 and dozens of symptomatic travellers on board — to dock in the harbour at Mariel, west of Havana, on March 18. Cuba then treated those affected by the virus and arranged passage home for the rest of the passengers. Delivering his final speech in British parliament as the leader of the opposition, the Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, described the internationalism of the Cuban doctors who travelled to Italy to help in the fight against the raging COVID-19 pandemic as “inspirational”. “It is at these times of crisis that we know the truly great, and it is in these hours that the Cuban people become a giant before the world”, Lula said, adding that it was also a “proud and sovereign response” to those who have imposed an economic blockade on the country, said, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former Brazilian president.

In 1965, Cuba established the National Center for Scientific Research with the aim of using scientific methods to solve biomedical problems and develop sophisticated products.

Cuba also established the Latin American School of Medicine in March of 1999. Since then the country has trained thousands of medical students from over 124 countries, free of cost, who pledge to return home to provide health care to the indigent.

Cuba’s health care advances have seen the disappearance of malaria, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles.

Cuba has been on the frontlines of many global struggles, providing aid to those who need it. Cuban doctors were the first to arrive after calamitous earthquakes in Pakistan in 2005 and Haiti in 2010 to fight a major cholera outbreak. Cuba’s  revolutionary doctors cared for 20,000 cancer victims after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine from 1989 to 2011, all free of charge. Cuban doctors also helped treat those affected by Ebola in Western Africa in 2014.  “Let’s reinforce health care, solidarity and international cooperation,” said Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba’s Foreign Minister.

 (Source-Workers’ World 24-03-20, telesurenglish.net, Frontline 24-04-20, dissidentvoice.org)

VIETNAM

Viet Nam shows how you can contain COVID-19 with limited resources

“…Viet Nam has … stood out as a beacon of how to do more with less.

So far, the country has 194 confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus cases, and no fatalities. Viet Nam isn’t in a position to conduct mass testing programmes. South Korea, for example, has tested 338,000 people. In Viet Nam, that number stands at just 15,637 people (figures for 20 March 2020). But by focusing on measures that are within its control, the country has won praise from the international community.

On 1 February, Viet Nam kicked off a series of initiatives to tackle the spread of COVID-19. It suspended all flights to and from China. It also decided to keep schools closed after the lunar New Year break. Two weeks later, a 21-day quarantine was imposed in Vinh Phuc province, north of Hanoi… decision …  sparked by concerns over the health status of migrant workers returning from Wuhan, China… the country has experienced a large improvement in quality of life. Between 2002 and 2018, an economic transformation helped to lift more than 45 million Vietnamese out of poverty….. The health of the nation has improved, too – life expectancy rose from 71 years in 1990 to 76 years in 2015…. There are around eight doctors to every 10,000 people in Viet Nam. Italy and Spain both have 41 doctors per 10,000 people, the US has 26, and China 18.

Its anti-coronavirus measures have gone on to include mandatory 14-day quarantines for anyone arriving in Vietnam and the cancellation of all foreign flights. It has also isolated infected people and then set about tracking down anyone they might have come into contact with…. There is also a strong culture of surveillance, with people expected to inform on their neighbours if they suspect any wrong-doing. Anyone found sharing fake news and misinformation about the coronavirus risks a visit from the police…. with limited clinical resources at its disposal, Viet Nam has seemingly managed to get the outbreak under control…. nearby Thailand has so far recorded four COVID-19 deaths, but is experiencing a significant rise in infections. On 24 March, Thailand’s Public Health Ministry announced 107 new cases, bringing the total to 934. The fault, according to Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin of the ministry, lies with “partygoers (who) transmitted the disease to about 100 other people … at-risk people must obey social distancing, both at their workplaces and at home.” ( Source : WEF report as on 20 March 2020)

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