The United States values its bilateral partnership with the Republic of Cyprus and looks forward to having further conversations with the government in Nicosia, as the two sides work to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, says Judith Garber, the US Ambassador to Cyprus. “We are always looking for ways in which to strengthen” our cooperation she notes.
Speaking to CNA, Ambassador Garber says that only if we work together, we will be able to come out of this crisis stronger. She also expresses hope for more bicommunal collaboration between health care workers in Cyprus, in view of the pandemic.
The US government is leading the world’s humanitarian and health assistance response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ambassador says and points to the announcement by the Secretary of State, on March 26, to proceed with an investment of nearly $274 million to this end.
The United States has not yet provided direct aid to the Republic of Cyprus, as Washington mobilizes resources for more vulnerable countries, based on a series of factors, Garber goes on. “The Republic of Cyprus, with its strong response to the COVID-19 outbreak and its excellent health care sector, is less vulnerable than other countries,” she explains.
The Ambassador notes, moreover, that Americans have provided generous support to coronavirus victims in hard-hit regions all over the world and are responding to the pandemic “with genuine human kindness, not for geopolitical gain or self-glorification.”
This funding will improve public health education, protect healthcare facilities, and increase laboratory, disease-surveillance, and rapid-response capacity, in up to 64 countries, she adds.
Asked about the way the US is assisting the Republic of Cyprus in this pandemic, Ambassador Garber notes that for decades, the United States has been the world’s largest provider of bilateral assistance in public health.
“That investment in global health security is particularly evident today in Cyprus, where the Cyprus Institute for Neurology and Genetics (CING) has been a national leader in the fight against COVID-19. We are proud that CING was established and supported by grant funding from the US government’s Agency for International Development (USAID) in the 1990s” she notes.
She also points to more than 7,000 tests for the coronavirus, conducted by CING, giving Cyprus one of the highest per capita rates of testing in the world.
Judith Garber also notes that US support is essential to the World Health Organization’s coronavirus relief efforts. “As of March 11, WHO had shipped personal protective gear to 57 countries. US contributions to the WHO in 2019 exceeded $400 million, almost double the second largest contribution” she says. To date, private American citizens and US companies have donated some $1.5 billion towards fighting COVID-19 around the world, the Ambassador notes.
Moreover, she explains how US government agencies are working together to prioritize countries eligible to receive funding to address the COVID-19 outbreak.
This prioritization, she says, is based on a series of factors, including the caseload and existence of community transmission, as well as data indicating connectivity to a hotspot as is the case currently with China, Iran, Republic of Korea, Italy and Japan. Vulnerability is another factor, taking into account the unstable political situation or displaced populations.
Priority, she goes on, is also given to countries ranked as having particularly weak or fragile health systems and low scores on compliance with the international health regulations. The government also assesses whether US support can make an impact on containing or mitigating COVID-19 in a given country.
“We are working diligently to prioritize our assistance to those communities most in need” comprising mainly medical assistance and supplies, the Ambassador goes on.
She also says that the US will continue providing assistance to at-risk countries, non-governmental organizations, and multilateral institutions working on global response efforts, including with the $1.3 billion in US foreign assistance signed by President Trump on March 6. This supplemental funding will support health systems, humanitarian assistance and economic, security, and stabilization efforts, she says.
Asked about the potential to strengthen Washington’s cooperation with Nicosia, the Ambassador says that “the United States values its bilateral partnership with the Republic of Cyprus, and we are always looking for ways in which to strengthen it. We look forward to having further open and transparent conversations with your government as we work to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”
She underlines the need to continue the cooperation and share factual information about this disease rapidly and transparently.
“US innovators are rushing to combat the new coronavirus and develop a vaccine, and new treatment options are being tested in the United States and Asia. I know that universities and research institutions in Cyprus and throughout the EU are working on ways to expand testing, to explore new treatments, and to protect citizens from the pandemic. It is only by all of us working together that we will be able to minimize the harm from this virus and come out of this crisis stronger” she says.
Moreover, Ambassador Garber says that the level of international cooperation, between the United States and allies in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa has been excellent. Furthermore, she notes that President Trump recently called President Xi of China and said the US and China are working together on fighting this crisis for our planet.
“I expect that we will see an increase in calls for international cooperation in the coming weeks, and the United States stands ready to help where we can,” she notes.
US Ambassador hopes to see more bicommunal collaboration between health care workers
The US Ambassador also wishes to see more collaboration between health care workers in the two communities. Asked if the pandemic provides an opportunity for more cooperation across Cyprus, Ambassador Garber welcomes the expressed determination of President Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci to battle this virus together, as well as the efforts of the members of the Bicommunal Technical Committee on Health.
“The health care professionals of Cyprus are outstanding and have all of our admiration and gratitude. If collaboration between health care workers in the two communities is strengthened, then that will be a fortunate and welcome development in this otherwise difficult situation, and a worthy example of what cooperation in a reunified Cyprus could be” she says.
The United States believes that the good people of Cyprus, with their ingrained spirit of generosity and their firm sense of solidarity across the generations, will weather this storm and emerge even stronger, the US Ambassador concludes.