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Italy approves new stimulus package to help COVID-hit business

ROME, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Italy approved a package of measures on Tuesday to support businesses hit by new restrictions aimed at reining in the coronavirus, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, hours after daily infections hit a new record high and COVID-19-related deaths jumped.

The measures include grants, tax breaks and additional funds for temporary lay-off schemes, government sources said.

“The cabinet has approved a decree which will ensure immediate compensation for the sectors which are in greatest difficulty in this moment,” Conte said on Facebook.

Earlier, the health ministry reported 21,994 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours with 221 deaths, the first time Italy registered more than 200 fatalities in a single day since mid-May.

In an effort to curb the resurgent outbreak, the government on Sunday ordered bars and restaurants to close by 6 p.m. and shut gyms, cinemas and swimming pools, triggering protests against the closures in several cities.

The government has promised there will be no repeat of the delays in the arrival of financial help to businesses which occurred during Italy’s first wave of the epidemic in the spring.

“The (compensation) money will be fast and certain,” Conte told Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper on Tuesday.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said on Sunday the national tax agency would aim to transfer funds directly into people’s bank accounts by mid-November or the end of the year at the latest. (Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Gavin Jones)