El Salvador to offer relief for those hit by coronavirus

SAN SALVADOR, March 18 (Reuters) - El Salvador will take steps to limit the economic impact for people and businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak, including suspending charges for some services, the government said on Wednesday.

Salvadoran authorities have yet to detect any cases there, but the impoverished Central American country has closed its borders and is in a state of near lockdown as it attempts to prevent the virus from entering.

Finance Minister Nelson Fuentes told a news conference the measures would only apply to people or businesses affected by the outbreak, which has pummeled financial markets and upended life around the globe.

For a three-month period, affected parties will be exempt from payments for electricity, water, mortgages and personal loans, credit cards, telephones, cable and internet, among other services, Fuentes said.

Once the three months are up, payment of the charges accrued will be spread over two years, without risk of default or damage to creditworthiness. Nor will they face interest charges. (Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Peter Cooney)