WASHINGTON: The World Bank unveiled a US$12 billion aid package on Tuesday (Mar 3) that will provide fast-track funds to help countries combat the coronavirus outbreak.
"The goal is to provide fast, effective action that responds to country needs," World Bank President David Malpass told reporters.
He said it is critical to "recognise the extra burden on poor countries" least equipped in the struggle to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The funds, some of which are targeted to the world's poorest nations, can be used for medical equipment or health services and will include expertise and policy advice, the bank said in a statement.
The virus that erupted in central China in December has killed more than 3,000 worldwide and infected over 90,000 people.
Malpass said the money - US$8 billion of which is new - will go to countries that request help. The bank has been in contact with many member nations, but he did not specify which are likely to be the first to receive aid.
"The point is to move fast. Speed is needed to save lives," he said in a conference call.
"We want to make the best use of the World Bank's extensive resources and global expertise and the historical knowledge of crises," he said, citing similar crisis funding to combat the Ebola and Zika outbreaks in recent years.