G7 to coordinate economic reopening plans amid outbreak

Washington (AFP) –


G7 leaders on Thursday pledged to work together to "safely" put people back to work as the coronavirus crisis drags on in a bid to revive the slumping global economy, the White House said.

The Group of Seven nations also called for "thorough review and reform" at the World Health Organization, after US President Donald Trump's searing criticism of the UN agency.

In a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, many countries around the globe have instituted extreme stay-at-home orders that have shuttered businesses and devastated the job market.

The leaders of the world's most advanced economies, who met via videoconference hosted by Trump, are looking for a way to end the economic paralysis.

"G7 leaders tasked their ministers to work together to prepare all G7 economies to re-open safely and on a foundation that will allow the G7 nations to reestablish economic growth with more resilient health systems and trusted supply chains," the White House said in a statement.

The United States currently chairs the G7, which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the global slowdown is the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, cutting world output by three percent this year alone.

European Union leaders, who also participated in the call, said in a statement that trade would be crucial "in both overcoming the immediate crisis and ensuring a robust economic recovery."

More than two million people have been infected with the virus worldwide, and more than 140,000 have died.

The G7 leaders agreed to "pool their research and talent to combat COVID-19 by sharing all relevant epidemiologic data," the White House statement said.

They emphasized their commitment to "a strong and coordinated global response to this health crisis," and discussed what the statement called the WHO's "chronic mismanagement of the pandemic."

"The leaders called for a thorough review and reform process," the statement said.

Trump has halted all funding to the Geneva-based WHO, saying it put too much stock in the assurances made by China after the virus emerged there late last year.

But it was not clear how widespread the criticism of the WHO was at the meeting.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman issued a statement expressing her "full support" for the agency.

And EU leaders said any solution to the crisis would have to come "in strong cooperation with the existing international organizations."