Italy on Monday unveiled a record 400 billion euros ($ 430 billion) stimulus to help businesses be harmed by a month-long national lock that is like running for several more weeks.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the nation to be patient in the face of a pandemic which has now officially taken 16,523 lives in the Mediterranean country and left millions at least temporarily unemployed.
“We will soon see a new spring for Italy but for now we have to stay at home,” the Italian leader said in a television address.
The program will add € 340 billion in government-backed loans announced last month.
Conte said it represented “the most powerful intervention in the history of the country”.
Half of the new packages will be for export-oriented companies whose turnover has exploded over the past month.
Italian health “emergencies are also an economic and social problem,” Conte said.
The government also announced it would take steps to protect Italian companies weakened by the economic crisis from being taken over by foreign competitors.
“This difficult moment will not translate into an opportunity to prey on Italian companies,” said deputy cabinet minister Riccardo Fraccaro.
Toll shoots back
Italy has seen its new coronavirus infection rate subside over the past few weeks and its death rate has slowly dropped.
But the number of deaths jumped again on Monday from the lowest level in more than two weeks.
The civil protection service said the daily number of COVID-19 deaths officially rose to 636 on Monday from 525 the day before.
Sunday’s casualties are the lowest since March 19. Casualties also represent a 23 percent decline from 681 deaths reported on Saturday.
The leading Italian health official called Sunday’s decline an important data point that could potentially lead to a month-long lockdown in the country.
But the head of the civil protection service Angelo Borrelli said on Monday that the data was still being assessed carefully and that definitive decisions were premature.
“The scientific-technical committee is currently conducting an evaluation. Then, it will be the responsibility of political decision makers,” Borrelli told reporters.
He said scientists would draw their conclusions about how to proceed “in due course”.
The Italian lock is now officially extended until April 13.
Conte has repeatedly emphasized that businesses will only be allowed to open gradually and that many social steps that distance the present will remain in place for some time.
But he refrained from saying when this could happen. Some officials have suggested that most of the current action will be extended until at least early May.
But some data released Monday looked encouraging.
The daily increase in new infections dropped to a record low of only 2.8 percent.
The number of people who received intensive care for COVID-19 fell for the third day in a row.
If you want to help fight COVID-19, we have compiled a list of the latest community initiatives designed to help medical workers and low-income people in this article. Link: [UPDATED] Anti-COVID-19 Initiative: Helping Indonesia fight the plague
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