cuba coronavirus (La Presse)

How Cuba is Leading the World in the War Against Coronavirus

As of March 20, the novel coronavirus now has nearly 250,000 confirmed cases, and more than 10,000 deaths in 166 countries and territories worldwide.

Global Snapshot of Coronavirus: Lockdowns, Illness and Death

Amid a complete lockdown, Italy’s cases continue to rise, with almost 36,000 cases, close to a half of China’s 81,000 or more recorded cases. London has been slated to be put on lockdown by the weekend, to stem its high case rate compared to the rest of the UK. As cases rise in Africa, more and more nations are also beginning to shut their borders, including Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Turkey – which has already carried out 10,000 coronavirus tests – has sent 500,000 coronavirus test kits to the United States, upon Washington’s request. Despite previously pronouncing Democrats’ fear about Covid-19 a “hoax”, and repeatedly calling it the “Chinese virus,” Trump has signed a bill into law legislating paid leave benefits to many Americans to fight the financial effects of the pandemic.

In India, prime minister, Narenda Modi, has urged its 1.3 billion citizens to stay indoors to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Cuba-China Cooperation Leads to Hopeful Treatment

Researchers globally are working around the clock to develop treatments and vaccines for the highly infectious virus. Last week, the National Institute of Health announced the first trial of the mRNA-1273 vaccine, which prevents against catching the virus.

In Cuba, an antiviral drug, Interferon Alpha 2B, “prevents aggravation and complications in patients, reaching that stage that ultimately can result in death,” according to Cuban biotech specialist, Dr. Luis Herrera Martinez.

The drug, which has been in production since 2003, has proven effective in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Developed by Cuba’s state-owned pharmaceuticals industry, the antiviral drug was produced in China at Changchun Heber Biological Technology, under a biotech agreement between both countries.

Interferons are “signaling” proteins, according to Dr. Helen Yaffe, Lecturer in Economic and Social History at Glasgow University (specializing in Cuba and Latin America). Although it is neither a cure, nor a vaccine for Covid-19, the antiviral boosts patients’ immune system.

The virus decreases the level of interferons naturally produced in human cells to reproduce within these cells. The drug, inversely, prompts the human body to produce more interferons. The signaled proteins are produced and released by the body at the sign of infections and alert nearby cells to increase their antiviral defences.

Cuba’s Past Experience Treating Dengue Fever, AIDS and Hepatitis

Cuba has used recombinant human Interferon Alpha 2B to fight frequent outbreaks of the Dengue Fever, and in treatments of HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, Shingles and Herpes zoster. As of March 18, the drug has helped more than 1,500 Chinese patients recover from the coronavirus. The Chinese National Health Commission used the drug along with 29 others in its fight against the virus.

Many Latin America and European countries have requested the drug, also requesting help from Cuban medical experts. The Latin American island is presently exporting medical professionals to the globe as part of its health mission.

“We have more physicians working abroad than practically any other country in the world, not because we are exporting anything but simply because we want to participate in building a world with better health conditions and living conditions.” said Herrera.

“The world has an opportunity to understand that health is not a commercial asset but a basic right,” Dr Herrera continued.

WHO’s Message: ‘Test, Test, Test’

Cuba founded its humanitarian medical mission 55 years ago after the Castro-led revolution. Despite constant embargoes from the US, the country provides nearly-free healthcare services in more than 160 countries worldwide. The United Nations has consistently declared these long-standing US sanctions, which Cuba has estimated cost them over ⁠— $750 billion ⁠— illegal.

“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded,” warned WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia.

“We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test. 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.

For 60 years, Cuba’s revolutionary healthcare system has worked towards human solidarity. The nation continues to fight for this “basic right” in its pivotal against Covid-19.

“Other countries have had solidarity with Cuba, especially with Latin American and African countries,” Herrera summarized. Now Cuba’s solidarity is extended to the rest of the world.