February 28, 2020 / 1:12 PM / a month ago

Eurogroup's Centeno: euro zone "ready to act" on coronavirus impact if needed

FILE PHOTO: Portugal's Finance Minister Mario Centeno speaks during a debate on 2020 state budget at the parliament in Lisbon, Portugal February 6, 2020. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

LISBON (Reuters) - Euro zone states must be prepared to act in a coordinated way if the coronavirus epidemic proves more than a temporary shock to the bloc’s “resilient” economy, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers Mario Centeno told Reuters on Friday.

Centeno, who is Portugal’s finance minister, said the priority was to take care of those affected and try to contain the spread of the flu-like virus, but that ministers were constantly in contact to assess the impact on the economy.

“It’s the new risk and it’s obviously a downside risk to our economies,” Centeno said in an interview.

“It looks like it’s going to be temporary, but the impact is there, and ... we need to coordinate our actions in case this becomes a more global scenario.”

He said the 19-country euro zone’s economy had “proved quite resilient in the last couple of years to a succession of risks and uncertainties”, adding: “Everybody was expecting some rebound of the economy, and coronavirus is something that we must be very attentive to and ready to act if it’s needed.”

Coordination was key, he said, even if the first response comes at national level. Help could be offered to the most affected sectors, he said, adding that the Easter tourism season would be closely monitored.

“We stand ready to act if this becomes a less temporary event,” Centeno said. “This is what the rules are made for, to adapt to these sort of events, especially when they are that negative and impact citizens directly.”

Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Jon Boyle and Catherine Evans

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