The government of Cuba hosted passengers aboard a British cruise ship with confirmed cases of new coronavirus after it was left stranded in the Caribbean for more than week. The safe haven was offered after several other Caribbean island nations, including Barbados and the Bahamas, which belong to the British Commonwealth, refused to let the passengers disembark.
Cuba is renowned for its preparedness in cases of natural disaster and has a long history of medical diplomacy, sending thousands of doctors on missions worldwide. Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, stated “Let’s reinforce healthcare, solidarity and international cooperation”.
“Thanks once more to the people of Cuba for their generosity and humanity,” wrote one passenger, Steve Dale, on Twitter. “Hoping to come back here one day when we’ve all forgotten about #Covid19.”
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which operates the Braemar, confirmed that the passengers were offered immediate healthcare at the Cuban dock, and arrangements were made for charter flights to return the passengers home to safety.
The gratitude towards the Cuban government was echoed by the British foreign minister, Mr. Dominic Raab in a Ministerial statement in Parliment. Mr Raab said: “We are very grateful to the Cuban government for swiftly enabling this operation and for their close co-operation to make sure it could be successful.”
Beyond hosting passengers on the Braemar, Cuba has developed and produces a number of medicines including the anti-viral drug Interferon Alpha 2B, which could save thousands of lives in the pandemic. The medicine has been produced in China in a Cuban-Chinese joint venture and so far has managed to effectively treat more than 1,500 coronavirus patients there.
Cuba Solidarity Campaign director Rob Miller said: “Cuba is now at the forefront of the international battle against coronavirus, and the wonderful humanitarian response to the plight of the passengers of the MS Braemar once again illustrates Cuba’s policies of internationalism and solidarity.”