Coronavirus, Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus on SkyTG24

“Italy is not alone in facing the COVID-19 emergency”, by Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus

March 22, 2020

(This is an unofficial/informal translation)

Aired on March 22, 2020

Q. What is the message you would like to give Italy right now?

A. We want the Italian people to know that we are in this battle together.  Italy and the United States have a solid, historical bond.  Just think, for example, of all the Italian-Americans who go back and forth between our two countries.  Just a few days ago I spoke to the Italian Ambassador to the United States and I reassured him, underscoring the importance of our friendship and that we will overcome all of this quickly.  And personally, once this is all over, I will take my next vacation in Italy; I can’t wait.  I drive an Italian car, my husband speaks Italian, and I feel a strong connection to your country.

The American people are also fighting this pandemic now.  We are together in this situation and that is why there are American companies and humanitarian organizations that are contributing aid by providing, for example, over 60 ICU beds to northern Italy.  There are also U.S.  organizations and companies that are lending a hand.  For example, Eli Lilly donated one million dollars in insulin to Italy.  

Furthermore, there is cooperation between European and American health and pharmaceutical authorities like the FDA who are working together to find a vaccine and put an end to the pandemic.  Although this situation is certainly very difficult, Italy must know that it is not fighting alone, but instead has the full support of the American people.

Q. Italy needs doctors and medical supplies right now.  Can you give us concrete help on this?

A. We have allocated over one hundred million dollars globally to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.  For example, many people don’t know it and even I didn’t know about it, but we have CDC representatives in almost all of our embassies around the world.  So our experts are already in place.  We know that when a global pandemic is fought we must do it all together.  So we will continue to monitor the needs of the United States and of course also of Italy, and then we must consider [the fact] that the American government is not the only one [looking at these needs].  Of course we can help find a solution, but we must also consider the important contribution that comes from American society and private companies, because when Americans step into the field they do it all together to help our country and our allies.  And we are certainly trying to do that in the rest of the world.  So we will continue to monitor everyone’s needs to make sure this pandemic ends.

Q. China and Cuba are helping us with medical personnel as well.  Both are countries toward which you have a sanctions regime.  Does Italy risk anything by accepting their help?

A. China does have a unique role and it has a duty to help overcome this pandemic because it began in China.  So yes, they must provide aid and continue to contribute to putting out the fire they caused.  It is absolutely their responsibility.  We know that this will not be the first nor the last pandemic that we will have to face together.  Just think of SARS, Ebola, and now COVID-19.  Hence, we must all closely look at how these viruses work and how they spread if we want to avoid that something as devastating as COVID-19 repeating itself.  And certainly we will always favorably welcome anyone who offers help and support.  And we are convinced that the Chinese government should do it.  It should assume responsibility to help out considering the fact that this virus began in China and then spread to the rest of the world.

Q.  Border closures:  you are scheduled to open them with Europe in three weeks’ time.  Will these restrictions be prolonged?

A. Those decisions will be made very carefully in accordance with our national healthcare officials.  President Trump made the decision to close the borders to Chinese travelers very early on and we made a similar decision with regard to Europe.  But it is important to understand that no one intends to make these measures permanent and, in fact, we hope that if we all follow the indications of the health authorities, we will be able to stop the contagion and return to normalcy as soon as possible.  This is our aim.  As the EU knows well, we suspended travel and we believe it is important that all governments are taking this situation seriously.  Some say that certain measures should have been taken sooner but in the end, the goal is that everyone behaves correctly, by following indications in order to stop this contagion and allow travel among all countries to resume as soon as possible.

Q.  Can American nationals in Italy return to the United States?  What do they have to do?

A. Our restrictions for travelers from Europe to the United States are not applied to U.S. citizens.  They will always be allowed to return to the United States.  All of our embassies around the world are currently working closely with American nationals who want to return home.  Undoubtedly, this depends on the countries because some have closed their airports, some airlines have cancelled their flights.  In some cases, we will make military or charter flights available. Today, for example, we did this in Morocco.  I would like all the Americans in Italy who are watching this interview to contact the U.S. Embassy in Rome and to visit to register and let the embassy know that you are in Italy because all the Americans abroad at this time should be in contact with their respective embassies that can give them all the necessary information on flights or travel conditions to bring them home if they so desire.

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