Japan unveils fresh economic package to offset virus damage

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday announced a second emergency package to tackle economic woes stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, including USD15 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 JPY1.6 trillion (USD15 billion) from its original JPY500 billion announced last month in the first package.

“We shall issue a powerful capital assistance worth JPY1.6 trillion 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 JPY430 billion 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 JPY15.3 billion 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 today, Japan would ban entries by foreigners from parts of Iran and hard-hit Italy, as well as San Marino.

A mask-clad pedestrian stands in front of a quotation board displaying the share price numbers of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP