Coronavirus threat: Former ECB boss slams G20 over ‘big anomaly’ in response to COVID-19

Coronavirus has infected more than 132,500 people across the world and nearly 5,000 people have been killed since the virus was first reported in December 2019. Countries across the world have been adopting a variety of measures in a desperate attempt to slow down and rein in the pandemic. Former European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet lamented the lack of coordination between members of the G20 despite the group having originally being formed to address international crises. 

Speaking to the Today Programme, Mr Trichet said: “I think we have a very, very big anomaly in the present reaction of the international community.

“First of all, we heard the G7 and not the G20 which is absolutely unbelievable because the G20 was created precisely in the former crisis because it was a global issue.

“Coronavirus is precisely coming from emerging countries in Asia, not mobilising the G20 seems to me a very big anomaly.”

The former ECB added: “On top of that, even inside the G7, it is absolutely appalling that the US took the decision to stop people coming in without any warning or without any discussion with the Europeans.

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“I think it’s without precedent and it’s an illustration of the drama where we are.”

US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday “most foreign nationals” would be subject to a travel ban if they spent the past 14 days in mainland Europe. The UK and the Republic of Ireland are not covered by the ban. 

Mr Trichet’s comments came after his successor Christine Lagarde sparked controversy after failing to confirm the ECB will do “whatever it takes” to protect the eurozone from a potential recession sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Ms Lagarde confirmed the institution will roll out measures to support commercial bank lending, effectively signalling governments are responsible for protecting the economies of indebted eurozone countries rather than the ECBs. 

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The ECB President said an extra €120bn (£106bn) would become available through bond purchases after conceded the COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on the eurozone economies.

Italy, the eurozone’s third-biggest economy and the country with the most reported cases of coronavirus in Europe, has been struggling for years to fully recover from the economic crisis of 2008 and is set to suffer severe setback after the Government was forced to put the whole country in quarantine earlier this week.

Following Ms Lagarde’s decision, Italian President Sergio Mattarella hit back at the ECB demanding “solidarity” for Italy rather than further obstacles to its recovery.

In a scathing statement released on Thursday, President Mattarella said: “Italy is going through a difficult period and its experience of contrasting the spread of coronavirus will probably be useful for all the countries of the European Union.

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“We therefore rightly expect, at least in the common interest, solidarity and rather than initiatives which could hinder its actions.”

Italy has found itself increasingly sealed off as other countries sought to keep infections contained.

Malta and Spain announced a ban on air traffic from Italy, while British Airways and Air Canada suspended all Italy flights.

Britain, Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany strengthened travel advisories and urged their citizens to leave and even the Vatican erected a new barricade at the edge of St Peter’s Square.

“Get out of northern Italy if you’re there,” said Erik Broegger Rasmussen, head of consular services for Denmark’s foreign ministry.

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