Finance ministers from the 19 eurozone countries Thursday agreed on a package worth more than half a trillion euros to help companies, workers and health care systems mitigate the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.
Mario Centeno, president of the Eurogroup of eurozone ministers, called the package of measures "totally unprecedented."
"The package we approved today is of a size close to 4 percent of European GDP,” he said. “Plus, the automatic stabilizers that are quite powerful to protect European economies in case of crisis. This is totally unprecedented. We have never ever reacted so quickly to a crisis as this one."
The measures provide for hard-hit Italy and Spain to quickly gain access to the eurozone's bailout fund for up to 240 billion euros, as long as the money is used for the needs of their health care systems.
Centeno said at a video news conference that countries are expected to identify enough health costs to access the money.
The credit line is available only for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak and expires immediately after that.
The Eurogroup package also includes up to 200 billion euros in credit guarantees through the European Investment Bank to help companies stay afloat and 100 billion euros to offset lost wages for workers confined at home and others who are on reduced schedule.
However, the deal did not include shared borrowing guaranteed by all member countries to pay for the cost of the coronavirus crisis, a key demand from Italy, Spain, France and six other countries, but rejected by Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
The finance ministers of Eurogroup left that issue open and up to national leaders of member countries as part of further negotiations on a possible fund to support the economic recovery in the longer term.