Thursday, March 19, 2020

What the Covid-19 virus revealed about national mindsets across the world and how Cuba came out on top by helping...
In a sign of true global solidarity, writes Ahmed Twaij, Cuba allowed the MS Braemer, a British cruise ship, to dock on Cuban shores despite carrying at least five confirmed coronavirus cases on board and 52 additional passengers showing symptoms. The ship carrying over 600 mainly British passengers had no Cuban nationals on board. Nevertheless, Cuba accepted their plea for help and allowed the MS Braemer to dock. The MS Braemer had been anchored in the Caribbean for five days searching frantically for a place to dock with no positive response. Diplomats from the British Foreign Office urged US officials to allow the ship to dock on American soil but they found obstacles. Cuban officials, however, accepted the request saying stopping the pandemic must be “a shared effort.” The Cuban response added that humans were suffering, and, regardless of the passport they held, they deserved help. Until then Cuba had only five confirmed cases of Covid-19 and was aware that the ship docking could threaten to increase that number exponentially.
This is not the first time the Cuban government and Cuban health care providers stepped in to help during global emergencies: Cuban doctors deployed in West Africa during the Ebola crisis and also during the Haitian earthquake emergency in 2010. This government program which emerged in the wake of the Cuban revolution sending Cuban healthcare professionals across the world during humanitarian situations and crises, has been recently at risk because of the US unrelenting blockade, made more virulent by the Trump Administration.

The coronavirus pandemic is serious and should unite the world. Cuba has for years run a celebrated universal healthcare system with outcomes equal to those of developed countries, argues Twaij, and Cuba has one of the world’s highest life expectancies. On the other hand, Twaij argues, the US continues to push profiteering from coronavirus through a private healthcare system that abandons its most vulnerable citizens. The US health care system early failure to even provide adequate testing kits to its population speaks volumes, he said.  Spain, in a dramatic announcement, nationalized all its private hospitals this week in an effort to contain the impact of the virus and showing privatization is not a good option. A public health care is more effective, affordable and accountable than a private one.  This crisis proves that a nationalized public system works better and keeps citizens safer.
Rather than battling to close borders and fueling xenophobia, by referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus,” the president of the US should show leadership during time of crisis proving he is capable.  Still, Mr. Trump continues to ask for wall building achieving nothing, Twij argues. Is there still room for humanitarian goodness? Remember he says when we treat others, regardless of where they are from, as we would wish to be treated. Well Iran has borne the brunt of US protectionism and sanctions which had accelerated the spread of the virus in the country. One thing to learn about a global world: global economies and global epidemics cannot be treated in isolation. A car bomb in Iraq affects the stock prices in the US. Covid-19 has caused a financial contagion worse than the 2008 credit crunch. This is no longer about making America great again, says Twaij, a theory that has already collapse. It is about saving the world again. If this US Administration fails at this, other countries have proven they can and will step in.  

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