The World Bank on Thursday approved an emergency financial aid of $1 billion (approximately Rs 7,600 crore) for India to tackle the coronavirus crisis. The pandemic has so far claimed 53 lives and infected over 2,000 others in the country. Globally, the confirmed cases have crossed the 1-million mark.

While India has got the largest chunk, the World Bank has approved a total of $1.9 billion for 25 countries. Pakistan has got $200 million while Sri Lanka has been allotted $129 million.

“In India, USD 1 billion emergency financing will support better screening, contact tracing, and laboratory diagnostics; procure personal protective equipment; and set up new isolation wards,” the World Bank said after its Board of Executive Directors approved the first set of emergency fund.

World Bank President David Malpass said the bank could provide up to $160 billion in assistance over the next 15 months.

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The assistance comes days after the World Bank warned that the coronavirus pandemic is expected to sharply slow growth in developing economies in East Asia and the Pacific as well as China. The bank added that the disease will drive millions into poverty. It urged countries in the region to invest in healthcare capacity. “Containment of the pandemic would allow recovery, but the risk of durable financial stress is high even beyond 2020,” the World Bank had said. “Most vulnerable are countries that rely heavily on trade, tourism, and commodities; that are heavily indebted; and that rely on volatile financial flows.”

The bank said its broader economic programme will aim to shorten the time to recovery and help protect the poor and vulnerable. “The World Bank Group is taking broad, fast action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and we already have health response operations moving forward in over 65 countries,” said Malpass. “We are working to strengthen [the] developing nations’ ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and shorten the time to economic and social recovery. The poorest and most vulnerable countries will likely be hit the hardest, and our teams around the world remain focused on country-level and regional solutions to address the ongoing crisis.”

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