Panama's Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre said Monday that the national government had made the decision to bring in foreign doctors from the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Cuba to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement came two weeks after Panama's President Laurentino Cortizo announced that his government was "trying to reach an agreement" with Cuba.
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The decision is made at a time when the country is deep in the struggle against the pandemic of the new coronavirus, the cause of COVID-19, which has overwhelmed the national health system, leading it to record the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Central America.
On the other hand, Domingo Moreno, the coordinator of the National Medical Negotiating Commission (Comenenal) explained: "we not only need specialist doctors, but also general practitioners, nurses, and technicians to take care of patients in the hotel-hospitals."
With four million inhabitants, Panama suffers the highest number of COVID-19 infections in all of Central America, with over 200,000 infected and 3,919 dead.
Last August, the President of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, had announced his government's intentions to hire Cuban doctors who were in Italy helping the European country in the fight against COVID-19.
Despite the health crisis facing the country, U.S. pressure forced the Panamanian president to abandon these negotiations with the Cubans and put aside any contract with Havana. The rising death toll and "lack of sufficient specialized human resources" to deal with the pandemic have caused the government to reverse course, Sucre said.
Cuba has been helping other countries to fight the disease since the beginning of the pandemic by lending its doctors to different parts of the world. The island currently maintains 45 medical brigades of the Henry Reeve internationalist contingent in 38 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and West Asia, at the request of the governments of those nations.
Cuban experts have also successfully used the drug Interferon Alpha 2B, produced on the island, to stop the outbreak of the pandemic. At least 15 countries have requested to purchase the drug.
While the Caribbean island adds all its efforts to help the international community to fight the coronavirus, the U.S. State Department criticized Cuba for sending doctors to several countries. Likewise, the U.S. Embassy in Havana urged the countries that receive Cuban medical cooperation to reject that contribution.