The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a total of $18 billion so far to help dozens of countries bear the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesperson said on Thursday.

“Since roughly the beginning of April until May 6th, yesterday, we have approved financing for 50 countries under these emergency facilities,” Gerry Rice, the head of the IMF communications department, said at a virtual press briefing.

“It's an IMF moving at an unprecedented speed in an unprecedented way to meet this unprecedented challenge, which we are all facing of course.”

He said over 100 countries had requested or expressed interest in assistance from the IMF since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

The spokesperson said the fund had increased access to its emergency facilities – the rapid credit facility and the rapid financing instrument – to meet an expected global demand of $100 billion.

Rice explained that the emergency assistance for COVID-19 was not comparable with normal IMF programs since the funds were not tied to certain conditions.

“Importantly, these facilities allow the Fund to provide emergency assistance without the need to have a full-fledged program. So, they do not entail the usual IMF conditionality,” he said.

To ensure misuse of funds, he said member countries were asked to commit that the money was only being used for urgent purposes related to COVID-19.

"The IMF asked countries who receive emergency financing, to commit in their letters of intent, to ensure that this assistance is used for the urgent purposes agreed under the emergency financing," said Rice.

He added that these countries must ensure procurement transparency through enhanced reporting and independent audits of crisis-related spending.

The spokesperson also reiterated the IMF’s call for suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries from bilateral creditors.

“The IMF, for its part, with the approval of our executive board, has gone ahead with immediate debt service relief from the IMF to 25 countries under our revamped Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, the CCRT.

“And this allows those countries to channel more resources towards vital health and medical relief efforts rather than repay debt obligations owed to the IMF,” he added.