More than 200 companies join forces against coronavirus 

A restaurant in Duomo square without customers, amid coronavirus outbreak, in Milan, Italy, 11 March 2020. [EPA-EFE/MOURAD BALTI TOUATI]

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. 

Merkel: Germany well-equipped against COVID-19

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her first public statement about the coronavirus epidemic on Wednesday (11 March), saying that financial reserves and good emergency mechanisms make Germany well-prepared. “We will do what is necessary,” she added. EURACTIV Germany reports.

“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.

EU pledges €25 billion to weather coronavirus impact

EU institutions and member states agreed on Tuesday (10 March) to ease EU spending rules and mobilise at least €25 billion of EU funds to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

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. 

As stock markets collapse, IMF calls for support for the coronavirus-infected economy

The International Monetary Fund called on governments worldwide Monday (9 March) to join forces and roll out aggressive financial supports for the coronavirus-infected global economy, including direct payments to workers and businesses.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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