Italy announces €25 bil package to fight coronavirus

A man walks along the deserted Vittorio Emanuele shopping arcade, in Milan, Italy. (AP pic)

ROME: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday that Rome was allocating €25 billion to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak that has killed 631 people in Italy.

“We have allocated an emergency sum of €25 billion,” Conte told reporters during a break in a meeting on the government’s response to the rapidly escalating health crisis.

The entire sum “will not all be used immediately,” Conte added.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said Italy will immediately use “half of these resources” and keep the other half in reserve.

Italy unveiled a €7.5 billion emergency response package last Thursday that officials later said would likely have to be increased to match the rapid rise in new infections and deaths.

A top economy minister had said on Tuesday that the package could reach €10 billion.

Italy, whose faltering economy is the third largest in the eurozone, needs special EU permission to spend more than allowed under the bloc’s strict budget rules for its 27 member states.

EU leaders had said they would accept Italy’s request when it still stood at €7.5 billion.