The current coronavirus crisis is far graver than the global financial crisis a decade ago, but the IMF has a $1 trillion war chest ready to fight it, said the head of the International Monetary Fund on Friday.
“This is way worse than the global financial crisis and it is a crisis that requires us all to come together,” Kristalina Georgieva told more than 400 journalists at a virtual press conference hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) at its Geneva headquarters.
“Emerging market and developing economies are particularly vulnerable – and this is a point that I want to emphasize,” she said, noting that more than 90 countries have so far approached the IMF for emergency funding.
“Their health systems are already fragile, and now they have been hit terribly hard economically. The IMF is giving those countries high priority,” said Georgieva.
“We have a $1 trillion war chest,” to deal with this surge, she said.
‘Find, test, isolate’
At the same event, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that more than one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO, including more than 50,000 deaths.
“We know that this is much more than a health crisis. We are all aware of the profound social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” said Tedros.
“The restrictions many countries have put in place to protect health are taking a heavy toll on the income of individuals and families, and the economies of communities and nations.”
The WHO head said the struggle against the virus is a “shared struggle” to protect both lives and livelihoods.
Tedros said that in the short term, countries can ease the burden on their populations through social welfare programs to ensure people have food and other essentials.
“For some countries, debt relief is essential to enable them to take care of their people and avoid economic collapse. This is an area of cooperation between WHO, the IMF, and the World Bank,” he said.
He said that ultimately, the best way for countries to end restrictions and ease their economic effects is to attack the virus.
“Find, test, isolate, and treat every case, and trace every contact,” said Tedros.
“If countries rush to lift restrictions too quickly, the virus could resurge, and the economic impact could be even more severe and prolonged,” he warned.
Financing the health response is, therefore, an essential investment not just in saving lives, but in the longer-term social and economic recovery.