March 10, 2020 / 10:52 PM / 24 days ago

IMF, World Bank test ability to work remotely ahead of virtual meetings

WASHINGTON, March 10 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund and World Bank said on Tuesday they were testing the ability of thousands of staff members in Washington to work remotely as they prepare for virtual Spring Meetings next month because of the fast-spreading coronavirus.

The IMF said more than 2,000 employees would participate in a “Fund-wide remote work exercise” on Friday as part of its crisis-preparedness efforts and in preparation for the virtual meetings next month.

More than 116,100 people have been infected by the virus in more than 110 countries, and 4,090 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Most U.S. government offices remain open, but staff at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission worked from home on Tuesday after an employee at the Washington headquarters was treated for coronavirus symptoms.

“This exercise will allow us to further strengthen the Fund’s readiness to continue its operations and serve its membership during these trying times,” an IMF spokeswoman said.

The IMF and the World Bank said last week they would adopt a “virtual format” for their April 17-19 Spring Meetings instead of convening in person in Washington.

The meetings usually bring some 10,000 government officials, business people, civil society representatives and journalists from across the globe to Washington.

The World Bank, which has 16,000 staff and consultants in Washington, is also restricting building access for anyone who has been to Iran, China, Italy and South Korea in the past 14 days; has a fever, cold or flu-like symptoms; or has knowingly been in close contact with anyone who is sick and has or could be suspected of having the virus.

The World Bank is also carrying out remote work exercises on a department-by-department basis, a spokesman said, adding: “We have multiple systems in place to ensure business continuity.”

Both institutions have set up websites collating information about their responses to the outbreak: here and here

The IMF said last week it was making available $50 billion in emergency funding to help poor and middle-income countries with weak healthcare systems respond to the epidemic.

The World Bank announced last week an initial $12 billion in funds to assist countries grappling with the health and economic impact of the coronavirus virus outbreak that has spread quickly from China to some 80 countries. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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