The International Monetary Fund said Thursday it will extend its flexible access to emergency funding for an additional 18 months to help nations severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The IMF’s executive board agreed on Monday to “temporary increases to the cumulative access limits under its emergency financing instruments” through June 2023, the Washington-based crisis lender said in a statement. In April 2020, as the world faced the first wave of coronavirus infections and deaths, the IMF eased access to such aid, including raising the level of funding that countries could obtain. The programs have already been extended twice, in September 2020 and again last March. The board also agreed that “all other access limits” which had been temporarily increased will be reduced to their pre-pandemic levels beginning January 1, 2022, as scheduled. “This decision reflects the expected and ongoing gradual shift to upper-credit-tranche quality arrangements from emergency financing triggered by an urgent, pandemic-related balance of payment needs,” the IMF said. It also stressed that the decision ensures “continued access” by member countries to the IMF’s emergency financing should the urgent balance of payment issues arise. The tools include the Rapid Credit Facility, an interest-free program available to low-income nations, and the Rapid Financing Instrument, which is available to all Fund members. The grants can be disbursed very quickly, to help member states implement policies to address emergencies. On Monday the IMF said it had approved the fifth and final round of debt relief under a program meant to help the world’s poorest nations weather Covid.