Opposition parties have welcomed the arrival of more than 200 doctors on Monday from Cuba to assist in the fight against COVID-19.
The group consists of experts in epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health, among others.
However, there were mixed reactions from ordinary South Africans and other stakeholders such as health unions, particularly around overlooking some of the country’s health workers and the costs involved.
During his Freedom Day virtual address, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader, Julius Malema, thanked the doctors.
“We must all be grateful for the visionary leadership of commandant Fidel Castro who started Cuban Medical Internationalism more than 60 years ago. We thank the Cuban doctors who have gone to the frontlines to fight coronavirus. We salute you. We also want to welcome them to South Africa.”
The Democratic Alliance (DA) says while it welcomes the addition to the healthcare response, government needs to clarify costs involved.
“We need to make sure that all our doctors and all our specialists are actually part of the response team and that we are not relying on people that are not South African to essentially aid us. However, it also raises questions around the cost of this deployment and so, we would like to see the minster clarify exactly how much money is being spent whether or not our own specialists in the country have in fact been utilised,” says DA shadow Health Minister, Siviwe Gwarube.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) says it hopes that there will also be knowledge and skills transfer that will still be useful post the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We call on the South African government to ensure that there is a skills transfer and knowledge transfer from the Cuban doctors and health practitioners who are in the country so that the help that Cuba is providing is not just confined to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is sustainable well into the future”, says IFP Spokesperson, Mkhuleko Hlengwa.
Congress of The People (COPE) says it welcomes the presence of the Cuban doctors as an old-time ally.
“We know that Cuba was always our friend even during the dark days of apartheid they were there standing with us fighting the apartheid enemy side-by-side with us. We welcome their presence in South Africa,” says COPE Spokesperson Dennis Bloem.
Cuban medical team sent into quarantine as part of COVID-19 protocol:
The Cuban medical team have been sent into 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.
When they are out of quarantine and have tested negative, they would be deployed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to various spots across the country.
The island nation boasts a strong healthcare system and many students from Africa study medicine in Cuba.
In previous cases of crisis, Cuban doctors were the first to arrive in Africa to help fight Ebola.