Italy has recorded more than 3,000 deaths from the spread of the disease, surpassing China as the country with the most deaths. There was a shortage of medics to help treat a flood of patients in the hospitals, forcing the nation to ask for help from Cuba.

Cuba said it sent Fifty-two Cuban doctors and nurses to Italy to help in the fight with coronavirus at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy. The Cuban doctors and nurses will join the ten professionals from China who arrived this Thursday in Milan, Italy.

“Cuban and Chinese medical personnel will be sent to a field hospital in Bergamo, the region of Lombardy most affected by the pandemic.

The 52-strong Cuban team marks the first time that Cuba has sent an emergency team to Italy, one of the richest countries in the world, demonstrating the reach of its medical diplomacy. This is the sixth medical team Cuba has recently sent to combat the spread of the new coronavirus abroad. Havana has sent teams to its socialist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua as well as Jamaica, Suriname, and Grenada.

“We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we take out fear and put it to one side,” Leonardo Fernandez, 68, an intensive care specialist, told Reuters late on Saturday shortly before his brigade’s departure.

“He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheroes, we are revolutionary doctors.”

Fernandez said this would be his eighth international mission, including one in Liberia during the fight against ebola.

“We are going to fulfill an honorable task, based on the principle of solidarity,” said Graciliano Díaz, 64.

Communist-ruled Cuba has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster areas around the world especially poor countries, since its revolution in 1959. Cuban doctors were at the forefront of fighting cholera in Haiti and Ebola in West Africa in 2010.

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Cuba built a healthcare system that was the envy of the developing world with economic aid from former ally Soviet Union, though some of those advances have been lost since the communist bloc collapsed.

Britain also thanked Cuba last week for allowing a British cruise ship that had been turned away by several Caribbean ports to dock on the island and for enabling the evacuation of the more than 600 passengers onboard.

Meanwhile, Cuba, which is known for its disaster preparedness, is stepping up measures at home too to stem the coronavirus contagion. Twenty-five cases have been confirmed so far.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel announced late on Friday the country would be closing its borders to foreign non-residents from Tuesday in a major blow to one of the motors of its cash-strapped economy, tourism.

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