The FINANCIAL — The economic cost from the outbreak of coronavirus strain COVID-19 is still uncertain but countries must work together to combat it, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said Thursday in Washington, DC.
Speaking to an empty briefing room, the IMF decided not to invite reporters into the regular news briefing as part of an effort to limit gatherings and transmission of the virus.
Taking questions online, Rice said that the forecast will for growth in 2020 will undoubtedly be lower than predicted at the beginning of the year.
“So on the first economic impact, as we have said, under any scenario, the global growth in 2020 will drop below last year’s level, which was 2.9 percent. How far will it fall? How long? What’s our forecast? It’s difficult to predict at this point, obviously, given the uncertainty. It depends, of course, on the spread, the propagation of the of the outbreak. It depends on the measures taken to respond and how effective they are,” Rice said.
The IMF and World Bank have announced that they will hold their upcoming Spring Meetings in a virtual setting. Rice committed to releasing all the regular briefings and publications but due to travel restrictions and precautionary measures they would be presented to authorities and the public online.
“What we have been seeing is indeed international cooperation is essential to effectively address the Corona virus outbreak. Again, obviously, this is not a disease… This is not something that stops at national borders. We need to work together,” Rice said.
Rice expressed sympathy and condolences for victims of the virus and the IMF has urged coordinated global action.
“First and foremost, this is a health issue. We’ve been saying we’ve been asking for governments to be forward leaning. That means to take this issue very seriously, to be active, to take well-targeted and proportionate measures again, to strengthen public health systems. First and foremost, and to contain the impact on the economy. So it’s targeted financing to support health care systems to immediately help the people that are affected and secondary. Secondly, monetary and fiscal support to help the economy where it’s needed most.”
The IMF has made up to $50 billion available to its members to help contain the economic impact of the virus. Part of that is the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, a fund created to help low-income countries deal with disasters.
Rice warned that the CCRT was running low on funds and welcomed a pledge by Great Britain on Wednesday to help replenish it and urged other countries to follow suit.
“We have the containment and the protests or catastrophe containment and relief trust, which is another instrument the IMF has for very poor countries to help them with debt relief. These are essentially granting for debt relief. And we have called upon our membership.”