COMPANIES in Asia and the Pacific region manufacturing and distributing products essential to containing the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) have been offered the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) $200-million Supply Chain Finance Program for capital to support the expected increase in production amid demand for such products.

In a statement Thursday, the Manila-based bank said the funds will be available to firms that manufactures or distributes medicines, personal protective tools and other items needed against the pandemic and will be “provided to selected companies within weeks.”

“The support will target companies in the supply chain that are critical to fighting the virus. We’re looking to support companies that want to ramp up production and therefore need to engage suppliers,” ADB Head of Trade and Supply Chain Finance Steven Beck was quoted as saying.

The multilateral bank said the $200-million facility “could support more than $400 million” worth of projects in the next 12 months if private funding is added.

ADB also said it partnered with commercial banks on a “fifty-fifty risk sharing” basis to boost the funding further and possibly double the pool to $800 million over that period.

The bank did not provide further details.

“ADB is closely monitoring the impact of Covid-19 on trade finance and is in regular contact with client banks to assess whether additional support is required,” the bank added.

So far, the bank has issued $4 million worth of financing support to several countries fighting the pandemic, and a $18.6-million private-sector loan extended to Wuhan-based pharmaceutical distributor Jointown Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd. “to support the continued supply of essential medicines and personal protective equipment.”

The World Health Organization on Wednesday officially classified Covid-19 as a pandemic after its spread and intensity rose to “alarming levels.”

The ADB has shut down its headquarters in Manila for disinfection and advised its staff to work from home on Thursday after a “visitor to the Bank tested positive for the coronavirus.” — Beatrice M. Laforga