14ymedio, Madrid, 3 April 2020 — The Spanish government has ruled out contracting for Cuban doctors to reinforce its healthcare system in the face of the Coronavirus, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Friday. Nor do they contemplate purchasing the Cuban-made antiviral Interferon Alfa-2B, which is being used as a Covid-19 treatment in some countries.
According to the Madrid newspaper, sources close to the presidency indicate that President Pedro Sánchez wants to avoid any action that could be interpreted as a political nod to Cuba and bring more criticism from the opposition.
In recent days, several autonomous communities, including Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, have asked the Foreign Ministry to promote the hiring of Cuban doctors.
The autonomous regions control their own healthcare systems (although during the state of alarm decreed on March 15 in Spain, workers are under the command of the ministry), so each one is trying to organize its resources to reinforce itself in the face of the pandemic , but it is the function of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to carry out these contracts or to enable non-EU foreign professionals to work in the country.
This Monday, the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, said in an appearance that he appreciated the offer of other countries but ruled out resorting to them because they have already hired at the national level. “At the moment we have not activated them, if necessary we would,” he admitted so as not to completely close the door.
In Spain, 7,915 professionals (including retirees, students and professionals without positions) have been brought on to reinforce the healthcare system in the face of the crisis, which totals 117,710 infected people this Friday, 10,935 dead, 56,637 hospitalized and 30,513 recovered. In recent days, strict containment measures have begun to be reflected in the contagion data, smoothing the curve, but the pressure is now shifting to hospitals. Those affected in a moderate to severe way usually enter about eight days after becoming infected, the critical phase, if it occurs, is reached at two weeks and, in the worst cases, death comes at three weeks.
Although the mobilization of resources and the reorganization is providing a relative respite, the country still lives under severe stress on its hospital which has led several regional presidents to indicate to the government their interest in accepting the Cuban proposals. But the reluctance of the central administration is reflected in statements such as those of Ximo Puig, president of the Valencian Community (of President Pedro Sánchez’s party), who admitted that he does not want “any kind of contraindication or conflict.”
The Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which governs in coalition with Podemos (the radical left), fears that any collaboration with Cuba will become ammunition for the opposition, which has been criticizing the government’s management for days, not only of the pandemic, but also of the economic and social support measures aimed at alleviating the consequences.
The government’s refusal applies to Cuban doctors already living in Spain who, weeks ago, opened a petition to request approval to be incorporated into the National Health System to support it in the face of the coronavirus. The National Health System maintains that it has promoted the hiring of some 200 foreign professionals, a quota that these Cubans can be a part of if they meet the requirements demanded of everyone else.
Spain is working on its own vaccine. The Minister of Science and Innovation, Pedro Duque, said this Thursday that “there is still the possibility that the vaccine will be discovered in Spain” and explained that a team from the National Center for Biotechnology (CNB) has very advanced work and “probably before end of April there will be a first world-wide vaccine candidate with complete virus,” to start animal testing.
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