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G-7 leaders vow to do whatever necessary to overcome virus shock

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a news conference about the novel coronavirus outbreak and German government measures to curb it at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on March 16, 2020. AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations said Monday that they will do "whatever is necessary" to ride out the coronavirus pandemic shock, with their options ranging from deploying fiscal measures to supporting efforts to develop a vaccine.

    The announcement followed the first-ever G-7 summit via videoconference, which took place amid growing fears that the U.S. and other economies could be tipped into a recession as tougher border controls are instituted and more businesses shutter to stem the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

    "We are committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure a strong global response through closer cooperation and enhanced coordination of our efforts," the leaders said in a joint statement.

    "While current challenges may require national emergency measures, we remain committed to the stability of the global economy," they added.

    The statement also said that the G-7 will "coordinate measures and do whatever it takes, using all policy tools," including fiscal and monetary measures, to achieve strong growth in their economies and safeguard against downside risks.

    Finance ministers are expected to coordinate weekly on the implementation of the measures, the statement said, adding that the G-7 countries will address disturbances to international supply chains and work to facilitate international trade.

    The group, made up of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States as well as the European Union, also pledged to contribute to measures to protect people's health, such as by supporting efforts toward the rapid development of a vaccine and working to increase the availability of medical equipment where it is most needed.

    In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after the videoconference that he had called on his counterparts to come up with a "strong" message, given concerns that the global economy could suffer adverse impacts of "great magnitude."

    The prime minister also said he secured support to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in their "complete form" to prove that "humankind can overcome" the virus. But he did not indicate whether the leaders discussed any possible changes to the scheduling of the games.

    Like other countries, Japan is seeking to combat the spread of the virus with measures such as the cancellation of large events, closure of schools and the introduction of travel restrictions. The Olympics is scheduled to run from July 24 to Aug. 9, and the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.

    Abe explained to the G-7 members that he is making "all-out efforts" to prepare for the event, a Japanese government official said.

    U.S. President Donald Trump said at a press conference on coronavirus measures on Monday that he had a "very productive" meeting.

    In its latest effort to tackle the virus spread, the Trump administration announced new guidelines recommending people curtail their social interactions for 15 days, such as by working or engaging in study from home and avoiding gathering in groups of more than 10 people.

    Citizens are also recommended to avoid discretionary travel as well as eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts.

    With New York stocks again meeting fierce selling pressure on Monday, Trump said that the United States "may be" heading into a recession, but quickly emphasized that once the virus is contained there will be a "tremendous surge" in the world's largest economy.

    Central banks around the world have been scrambling to calm financial markets that have remained volatile due to deepening uncertainties over the outlook.

    The U.S. Federal Reserve cut its key interest rate to near zero in a surprise move on Sunday, in addition to its emergency rate cut earlier this month. Central banks in Europe and Japan have followed suit, unveiling packages of additional monetary easing including an expansion of their asset purchase programs to provide ample liquidity to the financial system.

    The viral outbreak that began in China in December has led to more than 6,000 deaths and 170,000 infections globally, while subsequent disruption has slowed exports and production.

    The World Health Organization has said the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak has shifted to Europe, with Italy, under a nationwide lockdown, the hardest-hit among the G-7.

    The European Union will restrict nonessential travel into the bloc for at least 30 days in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Monday.

    The measure, which grants exceptions to people including healthcare workers and researchers involved in the battle against the virus, is expected be implemented once EU leaders approve it at an emergency videoconference later Tuesday.

    Travel between the United Kingdom, which left the European Union in January but remains in a transition period, will be exempt from the dictate.

    French President Emmanuel Macron announced Monday that his country will impose nationwide restrictions on people's movements for 15 days. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country is closing its borders as a protective measure against the epidemic.

    The United States, meanwhile, plans to host in June the G-7 summit at Camp David, the presidential retreat near Washington. Trump said he thinks the meeting can still be held there, although he noted that the issue was not discussed during Monday's videoconference.

    Some G-7 ministerial meetings planned in the United States have switched to videoconferences instead of in-person gatherings.

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