The World Economic Forum announced on Wednesday (11 March) a new alliance of multinationals to fight against the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on the deteriorating economy.
More than 200 companies already said they will join the new COVID Action platform launched by the WEF, organiser of the Davos forum, a global event held every year in the ski resort.
The platform includes banks such as Bank of America or Santander; pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca; ’tech’ firms such as Google or Microsoft; or insurance companies like Allianz or Zurich, among others.
The platform will be supported by the World Health Organisation and will operate as a network where CEOs, other senior corporate representatives and personnel involved in addressing the disease can offer their help on specific projects, launch actions and exchange best practices.
“COVID-19 is causing health emergencies and economic disruptions that no single stakeholder can address,” Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman, said in a statement.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, added: “We call on companies and organisations around the world to make full use of this platform in support of the global public health response to COVID-19.”
The announcement came as European decision-makers increased their warnings about the economic fallout of the coronavirus epidemic.
“The economic consequences of coronavirus will be very serious. In the EU, all that is necessary and possible must be done. If not now, when?”, the Commissioner for Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, wrote on his Twitter account.
His comments came after a teleconference held by EU leaders on Wednesday failed to agree on a coordinated fiscal stimulus to sustain the falling output across the bloc.
European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde told EU leaders that without a coordinated action against the outbreak, Europe would see a scenario reminiscent of the 2008 financial crisis, according to a person familiar with her comments cited by Bloomberg News.
Instead of the coordinated fiscal stimulus, EU leaders and the European Commission agreed to facilitate reusing existing EU funds held by the capitals and amounting to €7.5billion to tackle this crisis, hoping to unlock additional funds totalling €25 billion over the next months.
The European Commission also said that it will clarify the EU’s spending rules by Friday to allow for additional national expenditure, and will also interpret with flexibility state aid rules to support firms hit by the coronavirus.
The COVID action platform, open to all global businesses and public organisations, will focus on three priorities: galvanise the global business community for collective action; protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity; mobilise cooperation and business support for the COVID-19 response.
One of the first projects to be launched under the new platform will aim to strengthen the supply chain of essential health material.
Other actions will include supporting mechanisms for business donations to the public health response and the development of available and accessible vaccines, diagnostics, treatments and protective equipment, as well as tracking the economic impact of the virus.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]