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Germany to pay aid to businesses hit by lockdown quickly, says finance minister

BERLIN, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Companies affected by a new partial lockdown in Germany should apply for financial aid and can expect to receive funds quickly, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Monday.

Germany has imposed an emergency month-long lockdown, effective from Monday, shutting businesses including restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms.

The government plans to compensate companies affected by the restrictions by paying them up to 75% of their year-earlier November sales as part of a 10 billion euro ($11.63 billion) aid package.

Details of the aid package were still being discussed, Scholz told Reuters in an interview. The federal states, responsible for a large part of the payouts, will join the discussions within the coming days.

“So, it is going very, very quickly now,” he said.

Scholz responded cautiously to calls for hospitals to postpone planned surgical procedures again to keep capacity available for COVID-19 patients and for the government to compensate them for the lost revenues.

While Germany has financial flexibility given its plans to borrow more than 300 billion euros in total this year and next, it needs to consider carefully which measures make sense, and there is still a high level of free capacity in intensive care units, he said.

Scholz was optimistic that the new restrictions would be effective. “The hope is that this will actually work, and there are many facts supporting (that hope),” he said. ($1 = 0.8596 euros) (Writing by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Alex Richardson)