[News] How Cuba is Leading the World in the Fight Against Coronavirus

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 17 15:34:18 EDT 2020

Cuba is Leading the World in the Fight Against Coronavirus
by Alan Macleod - March 16, 2020

While the United States government is complicating efforts
to treat coronavirus across the world and is using the pandemic to increase
on countries already struggling under U.S. sanctions, including Iran
Syria, and Venezuela <https://www.mintpressnews.com/265749-2/265749/>, the
small island of Cuba, itself a target of Washington’s ire, is leading the
fight against the spread of COVID-19.

And while the Trump administration slashes
the Center for Disease Control’s budget amid an imminent pandemic, China
appears to have gotten to grips with the coronavirus outbreak. Beijing
reported only 16 new cases of the virus today, and there are now more total
cases outside mainland China than inside it.

Integral to reducing the number of deaths is a Cuban antiviral drug,
Interferon Alpha 2b. The drug, according to
Cuban biotech specialist Dr. Luis Herrera Martinez, “prevents aggravation
and complications in patients, reaching that stage that ultimately can
result in death.” It has been produced in China since 2003 in a partnership
with the state-owned Cuban pharmaceutical industry. Interferons are
“signaling” proteins, explains
Dr. Helen Yaffe of Glasgow University, an expert on Cuba. These proteins
are produced and released by the body in response to infections and alert
nearby cells to heighten their antiviral defenses. It is not a cure or a
vaccine to COVID-19, but rather an antiviral that boosts the human immune

Cuba has used it to fight outbreaks of Dengue Fever, a common occurrence on
the mosquito-plagued island. The Castro government was forced to develop a
strong pharmaceutical industry because of the constant U.S. embargo. Cuba
estimates the decades-long sanctions, continually declared illegal by the
United Nations, have cost it over $750 billion

Today, the Cuban government offered
<https://twitter.com/alboradanet/status/1239614778622054400> haven to the
stranded cruise ship, MS Braemar. The ship has five confirmed COVID-19
cases on board and had been turned away by both Barbados and the Bahamas.

Despite confirming its own first cases, the island is continuing to export
medical professionals to the rest of the world. Yesterday, Jamaican Health
Minister Christopher Tufton announced
that 21 nurses from its neighbor would arrive imminently, the first of more
than 100, he hoped. But they have also sent doctors to more advanced
nations, such as Italy.


Sarpoma Sefa-Boakye, a Ghanaian-American doctor who studied for free in
Havana and now practices in California told *MintPress:* “You don’t hear of
Cuba’s health contributions in the United States,” claiming that there are
more Cuban doctors in Africa than African doctors and that the Caribbean
island trains more Africans in medicine than all of Africa does. She first
heard of the possibility of scholarships for Americans while studying in
Ghana. She notes that Cuba is well placed to combat the coronavirus because
of its culture of quarantining for viruses and its experience fighting

Despite inadequate testing, the United States has over 4,000 confirmed
cases of COVID-19. There has not been one centralized plan from the
government; instead, different authorities have enacted different laws,
with varying degrees of severity. New York City, for example, will go into
lockdown tomorrow, closing all schools, universities and non-essential
stores. On the other hand, other cities remain almost completely normalized.

Dr. Sefa-Boakye advised that stringent measures were urgently needed to
fight the virus’ spread; “Quarantining has to be the only way that we can
get a hold of transmission,” she said. “The science will tell you, you talk
to any biologist or anyone who has taken a basic science class: viruses
replicate. That is how they move. They need a host and a source. I learned
that in Cuba.” She also warned that the United States is “facing an
increase in transmission because of our lack of infrastructure.”

Worldwide, the number of confirmed cases reached over 175,000 today, with
6,717 deaths. COVID-19 has now reached a large majority of countries.
Medical professionals urge everybody to reduce their contact with other
people to the minimum necessary, regularly wash their hands with soap and
water, avoid touching their face, and cover their mouths with their elbow
when they cough or sneeze.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advised countries should check all
potential cases. “You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. We have a simple
message for all countries: test, test, test,” said WHO Director General
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia. “This amazing spirit of human
solidarity must become even more infectious than the coronavirus itself.
Although we may have to be physically apart from each other for a while, we
can come together in ways we never have before…We’re all in this together.
And we can only succeed together,” he added. It is that ethos that has
driven Cuba’s revolutionary healthcare system for 60 years.

Feature photo | A woman wears a mask as a precaution against the spread of
the new coronavirus at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana,
Cuba, March 12, 2020. Ramon Espinosa | AP

*Alan MacLeod <https://twitter.com/AlanRMacLeod> is a Staff Writer
for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two
books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting
and Propaganda
in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent
He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
<https://fair.org/author/alan-macleod/>, The Guardian
<https://www.theguardian.com/profile/alan-macleod>, Salon
<https://www.salon.com/writer/alan-macleod>, The Grayzone
<https://thegrayzone.com/author/alan-macleod/>, Jacobin Magazine
<https://jacobinmag.com/author/alan-macleod>, Common Dreams
<https://www.commondreams.org/author/alan-macleod> the American Herald
Tribune <https://ahtribune.com/author.html?id=1088> and The Canary
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