March 18, 2020 / 12:41 PM / 14 days ago

Poland pledges $52 billion for fight against coronavirus

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland proposed a 212 billion-zloty ($51.96 billion) programme on Wednesday to mitigate damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak, which could last for months, Prime Minister Morawiecki said.

The package will help struggling companies pay salaries to avoid layoffs, allow companies to delay social security payments and increase infrastructure and healthcare spending, among other things, Morawiecki said in Wednesday’s televised speech.

The move comes after Poland shut schools, theaters and cinemas and closed its borders, disrupting social and economic life across the country and limiting trade in and out of the country.

“This shield is aimed at giving Poles hope that things will be better soon,” Morawiecki said in a televised speech on Wednesday, adding that the crisis may hit the economy harder than the 2008 financial crisis.

The fiscal package adds to the measures already taken by Poland’s central bank, which cut its main interest rate by 50 basis points to a record low of 1.0% and proposed large-scale treasury bond purchases.

Poland, a country of 38 million, has confirmed 246 cases of coronavirus and five deaths as of Wednesday. The pandemic has hammered its financial markets.

($1 = 4.0798 zlotys)

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Alan Charlish; editing by Joanna Plucinska, Larry King

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