Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends an upper house plenary session at parliament in Tokyo on March 11, a day after announcing a second emergency package to tackle economic woes stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi

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 programs to support small businesses.

The package comes 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 includes plans to expand the government’s low interest loan programs to 1.6 trillion yen ($15 billion) from the 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 a very difficult time can continue their operations,” Abe told the government’s special outbreak task force.

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 programs, including boosting production of masks and helping nurseries and elderly care facilities to prevent outbreaks.

The spending program 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 that, effective Wednesday, Japan would ban entries by foreigners from parts of Iran and hard-hit Italy, as well as San Marino.

– AFP

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