Italy’s government has approved a new package worth around 10 billion euros ($11.9 billion) to support businesses hit by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the measures approved late on Friday, Rome will immediately offer 1.95 billion euros in grants to coronavirus-hit businesses and food aid for the poor.
The government is also preparing an additional 8 billion euros to beef up aid schemes already in place.
On Friday, the health ministry reported 37,242 new coronavirus infections and 699 deaths, as the country struggles to curb a resurgence of cases and fatalities which are stretching its health service to breaking point.
Italy’s economy is expected to contract by at least 9% this year due to lockdown measures aimed at reining in the epidemic.
The new measures are not expected to push this year’s budget deficit above the current goal of 10.8% of gross domestic product, the Treasury said, as there was already spending leeway built into the target.
The government is planning to spend an additional 15-20 billion euros early next year to help the economy, which will push up the deficit in 2021, sources have said.
In an effort to rein in the pandemic, the government has divided the country into three zones based on their infection rates, and calibrated restrictions accordingly.
Many regions, such as the industrialized Piedmont and Lombardy in the north, have been placed under partial lockdown with bars, restaurants and most shops closed and people only allowed to leave home for essential needs.
These most stringent curbs have recently been extended to other regions, including Tuscany around Florence, and will be valid at least until Dec. 3.