March 5, 2020 / 6:48 AM / a month ago

Italy may raise coronavirus support spending to 5 billion euros, minister says

ROME (Reuters) - Italy is likely to increase to 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) the value of measures to help its economy withstand Europe’s largest coronavirus outbreak, Deputy Economy Minister Laura Castelli said on Thursday.

“It is likely that the government will reach (5 billion euros),” Castelli told the daily Il Messaggero in an interview.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri has promised tax breaks and other measures worth 3.6 billion euros for the affected sectors. On Wednesday, a government source told Reuters this might be raised to 4.5 billion, or 0.25% of GDP.

Italy’s tally of deaths rose to 107 on Wednesday, with the number of cases since the outbreak surfaced 13 days ago climbing to more than 3,000.

On Wednesday, Rome imposed stringent measures to tackle the virus, closing all schools and universities and taking other emergency steps.

Castelli said she thought it was “necessary to raise the bar as much as possible, also considering the fact that Italy has registered a lower than expected deficit”.

She added that Rome was considering asking for a temporary suspension of the European Stability and Growth Pact.

Measures being considered include support to parents who have to stay home to look after their children, an increase in national healthcare funding and temporary redundancy benefits.

Reporting by Francesca Piscioneri; Writing by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Kim Coghill and Clarence Fernandez

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