March 28, 2020 / 4:16 PM / 2 months ago

Albania flies 30 doctors to Italy to help with coronavirus crisis

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe, flew a team of doctors and nurses to neighboring Italy on Saturday to help it deal with the coronavirus pandemic as its own cases have yet to strain the health sector.

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s government assigned 11 million leke ($95,000) to pay the team of 30 medical staff, who volunteered, to work for a month in the area of Bergamo, the official gazette said.

The Italian Embassy in Tirana confirmed the plane had left in mid-afternoon carrying the medical team, adding in a Twitter message; “Thanks to the Albanian government for this act of solidarity and affection! #forever united”.

Albania has 197 cases of the illness, with 10 deaths. Italy has more than 86,000 cases, and its death toll of more than 9,000 is the highest in the world. Bergamo is the worst hit area.

Italy has helped Albania since it faced a number of crisis after toppling communism in the late 1980s, including risk of famine in the early 1990s and anarchy in 1997. Tirana sees the medical aid as a chance to repay the favors, however small its contribution.

Some 400,000 Albanians live and work in Italy, sending money home to their families as well as investing savings and expertise gained there to build businesses back home.

Albania has seen the strain on Italy’s more advanced health system as a stark warning, and has imposed increasingly strict restrictions on social contact on its citizens.

($1 = 115.1700 leke)

Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Frances Kerry

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