Cuban doctors Gauteng Health

Cuban doctors arriving in South Africa.
Image via: ER Lombard / Gallo

SANDF: ‘Cuban doctors in South Africa are healthy and COVID-19 free’

This comes after rumours that 23 Cuban doctors, who arrived in South Africa on Freedom Day, tested positive for COVID-19.

Cuban doctors Gauteng Health

Cuban doctors arriving in South Africa.
Image via: ER Lombard / Gallo

There has been some suspicion in the air regarding Cuban doctors testing positive for COVID-19 — the same Cuban doctors who arrived in South Africa on 27 April to bolster our response to the pandemic. On Saturday 9 May, the rumours were put to bed. 


South African National Defence Force (SANDF) spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini told The South African that the Cuban doctors who arrived in South Africa last month, are healthy and are not infected with COVID-19. 

Dlamini also said the publication, which initially said the doctors tested positive, would be dealt with accordingly. It stated that 23 of the 217 Cuban health professionals had tested positive for COVID-19. 

When The South African contacted the National Department of Health, it said:

“The NDoH is not aware of this”.


On 27 April — Freedom Day — 217 Cuban doctors and health professionals touched down at the Waterkloof airforce base in Gauteng to help bolster South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It followed a request made by President Cyril Ramaphosa to President Díaz Canel Bermúdez of Cuba. 

The group of Cuban health experts, according to the presidency, consisted of the following:

  • Experts in the fields of epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health;
  • Family physicians to guide interventions through door-to-door testing and to assist local health workers in health promotion and disease surveillance at the community level;
  • Healthcare technology engineers to assist in maintaining the inventory, deployment and repair of aged medical equipment; and
  • Cuban experts to provide technical assistance working with local experts.

“The strong and historic relations between the two countries has seen bilateral agreements and technical cooperation in many areas, including Health, Human Settlements, Public Works, Infrastructure, Water Resource Management, Sanitation and Basic Education, among others,” said Ramaphosa. 

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said it welcomed the arrival of 217 Cuban health experts in the country, however, warned that the government should not overlook nurses here in South Africa that are without jobs, that could also contribute to the fight against COVID-19. 

Deputy Director-General for Health Yogan Pillay said the government had no intention of replacing South African health professionals with Cuban doctors.

“This is not the first time we have had Cuban doctors coming to South Africa and they are here to bolster, not to replace anyone. There is no intention of replacing South Africans with any other nationality,” said Pillay.  

“Let me reassure South African health professionals – doctors, nurses, and everyone else, that they are the mainstay of our health system and they will continue to be such,” he said.