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Battling COVID-19: U.S. pledges to work with Central Asia

Morgan Ortagus, U.S. State Department Spokesperson
Morgan Ortagus, U.S. State Department Spokesperson

As the international community mitigates the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus), VOA's Navbahor Imamova asked U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus about how Washington is working with the Central Asian republics to fight the current pandemic. Officially, there are some 250 coronavirus infection cases in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. At least three people have died. Governments in the region have looked to China's experience with the virus as a model to learn from, but even though the United States is itself gripped with the fight against the pandemic, Washington wants to remind them that it, too, is willing to help.

Full transcript

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: What is the State Department doing specifically with Central Asian governments against COVID-19?

Morgan Ortagus, State Department Spokesperson: The United States remains the world's largest provider of global health assistance anywhere around the world. And in Central Asia, we have provided over $4.3 million, a lot of that is in PPE, personal protective equipment, mask and other things, and we will continue to work closely with Central Asia to fight this pandemic.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: How are the embassies in both countries working together to help U.S. as well as Central Asian citizens in both parts of the world?

Morgan Ortagus, State Department Spokesperson: So, the United States today has announced even more global funding. We're now up to $274 million that we will provide around the world. As a part of our close relationship with these Central Asian countries, we're working on a variety of issues to combat Covid-19. One of the things that we've been working on quite diligently over the last few weeks is getting American citizens home from Central Asia, ones that would like to be repatriated back to the United States. The safety, and welfare, and protection of American citizens is Secretary Pompeo's highest priority, and we certainly appreciate the cooperation that we've had from central Asia on this massive effort that we've had.

Today, we've repatriated, as of today, 10,000 Americans back to the United States from around the world. So, we will continue to work closely with central Asian countries as we all race towards finding a vaccine, finding more therapeutics. We're looking at best practices to fight COVID-19 between our countries. Central Asia comes up with great ideas. America has good ideas. So, we're all working very closely and collaborating to make sure that there is a strong dialogue, so that we can all pursue best practices to end this terrible, terrible, global pandemic that of course emanated from China.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA Uzbek: What is the strategy forward? How will the Trump Administration continue to cooperate with the region against this pandemic?

Morgan Ortagus, State Department Spokesperson: So we were just in Central Asia not that long ago actually. I was there with Secretary Pompeo just a few months ago and we were there to tout our new Central Asia Strategy. And that was really before, we were there when the pandemic was first starting and it was getting media attention, but it certainly wasn't to the level that it is today around the world. But that Central Asia strategy talked about working together closely on a variety of transnational threats. And one of those threats, of course, is always a threat of a pandemic. And so that's why we think the United States' close relationship with Central Asia and our new Central Asia strategy is so important because we're going to continue to always work on any strategic issues that affect both of our countries. And, of course, now we're dealing with a pandemic that affects all of our countries.