U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy addresses members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Yerevan

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The United States has allocated $5.4 million in fresh assistance to Armenia designed to combat the coronavirus epidemic, U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy said on Thursday.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Tracy also voiced concern over the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country while praising the Armenian government’s intensifying efforts to get people to practice social distancing, wear face masks and wash hands.

“Those are things that all of us can do and that I think can help turn around the situation we’re seeing right now,” she said. “Obviously these high numbers that we are seeing now are of concern, but it’s really the effort of all of us, a unified effort, that I think is going to make a difference in fighting COVID-19.”

“I’m also happy to say that the United States has been doing its best to contribute and assist the government,” Tracy went on. “We have obtained $5.4 million of new assistance money that’s going in a number of directions to help the government. We are also redirecting some of our existing money to help small and medium businesses.

“So I have still some optimism that we can recover and be in a better place. But it’s going to take a lot of work, I think, from everybody.”

In the envoy’s words, much of the fresh U.S. assistance will be channeled into Armenian laboratories and healthcare services dealing with “the most severe cases” of COVID-19. “We are continuing to talk to the [Armenian] government about the needs that they have, and we are looking at what we have within the U.S. capacity to help,” she said.

Washington announced its first coronavirus-related aid package for Armenia, worth $1.1 million, in late March shortly after the Armenian government imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the first major outbreaks of the disease.

The government began easing those restrictions in mid-April and lifted virtually all of them by the beginning of May. The number of coronavirus cases in the country has increased sharply since then. Critics say that the government never properly enforced the lockdown and ended it too soon.

Asked to commenting on that criticism, Tracy said: “The prime minister [Nikol Pashinian] has been talking about some of the issues that he’s been trying to balance, trying to balance protecting public health while also paying attention to the fundamentals of the economy. It’s a tough balance to strike.”

“This is something that we are facing in the United States as well and in many places around the world,” she said.

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