KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine, which expects a sharp rise of coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, sent doctors to disease-hit Italy on Saturday to assist their Italian colleagues and to gain field experience.
A team of 20 doctors, including surgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses, will be deployed to the region of Marche in central Italy for two weeks, Italian ambassador to Ukraine, Davide La Cecilia told Reuters.
“The national health service in our country is very stressed. So we badly need medical personnel and are very happy that Ukraine is sending this humanitarian aid,” said La Cecilia at Kiev’s airport, before the medical mission’s departure.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who accompanied the ambassador, said Kiev would send more medical aid and disinfectant to Italy in the coming days.
“It is an honour for us to help Italy during such tough times. We know that many Ukrainians live and work in Italy. By helping Italy, we are helping our citizens,” said Avakov.
Ukraine’s health ministry has reported 1,096 cases, including 28 deaths since March 3, when the first case was recorded. But as thousands of Ukrainians have recently returned home from abroad, the ministry expects a much bigger outbreak ahead. The daily tally of new cases increased to 154 on Saturday from 138 on Friday, up from 62 last Monday.
The head of the Ukrainian medical mission, neurosurgeon Andriy Miroshnichenko, said that all the team members volunteered to work in Italy.
“After they come back home, they will be able to treat patients and work having practical experience and knowledge about the disease,” said Miroshnichenko.
Asked whether the Ukrainian doctors were not afraid to catch the virus themselves Glib Bidyukov, a nurse, said it was “a consciously made choice”.
“When you choose healthcare, you understand that you put yourself in some danger… Each of us made a choice a long time ago,” Bidyukov said.
Writing by Natalia Zinets, Editing by Christina Fincher