Japan unveils fresh economic package to offset virus damage

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday announced a second emergency package to tackle economic woes stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, including $15 billion in loan programmes to support small businesses.

The package came as the government ramps up its response to the virus, which has infected more than 500 people across the country and been linked to nine deaths.

It included plans to expand the government's low interest loan programmes to 1.6 trillion yen ($15 billion) from its original 500 billion yen announced last month in the first package.

"We shall issue a powerful capital assistance worth 1.6 trillion yen that will include offering loans effectively with no interest so that small businesses across Japan that are going through very difficult time can continue their operations," Abe told the government's special outbreak taskforce.

The latest assistance will be designed to ensure steady cashflow for small businesses feeling pressure from the virus's global spread.

The package will also include fiscal spending worth 430 billion yen for a variety of programmes, including boosting production of masks and helping nurseries and elderly care facilities to prevent outbreaks.

The spending programme will also cover financial help for working parents who had to miss work and stay home to care for their children after schools across the nation closed.

In mid-February the government set aside an initial 15.3 billion yen for the fight against the virus, including money to boost testing, strengthen inspections at borders and support manufacturers of face masks.

Abe also said, effective Wednesday, Japan would ban entries by foreigners from parts of Iran and hard-hit Italy, as well as San Marino.