Australian PM announces coronavirus stimulus package

Sydney, Australia, Mar 22 (efe-epa).- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday said his government would pump in AU$189 billion ($109 billion) into the economy to cushion the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

“We want to help businesses keep going as best they can and for as long as they can, or to pause instead of winding up their business,” Morrison said in a statement

“We want to ensure that when this crisis has passed Australian businesses can bounce back.”

The sum amounts to 9.7 percent of Australia’s GDP, according to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

It includes AU$90 billion from the central bank, AU$15 billion from the government to deliver easier access to finance and AU$66.1 billion of direct economic aid.

The portion earmarked for direct economic aid will comprise of support for families, self-employed workers, retirees, people receiving social benefits.

It also involves aid for companies so that they are not forced to shut down and can support their employees.

“Our focus is on cushioning the blow and providing hope to every Australian that we will get through this and come out the other side together,” Morrison said.

“We know this will be temporary. That’s why all our actions are geared towards building a bridge, keeping more people in work, enhancing the safety net for those that aren’t and keeping businesses alive so they can get to the other side and stand up their workforce as quickly as possible.”

Morrison also warned of a lockdown to curb the spread of the disease.

“It is a challenge for Australians. It is very important, it is very serious, it is deadly serious, and that is why I would appeal to them that they all have a role to play,” he told reporters.

“People cannot be cavalier about these things and must take them extremely seriously, because lives and livelihoods are at stake.”

The warning came after crowds on Saturday gathered on Sydney’s beaches including Bondi in violation of social distancing measures advised by the authorities.

“What we saw on the weekend at Bondi Beach would have been done innocently, but negligently done. And it is important that serves as a wake-up call for the entire country to ensure they take these social distancing policies very seriously.”

Meanwhile, the government of the Australian state of New South Wales – which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country – announced Sunday that it was preparing to order a shutdown of all non-essential services in the next 48 hours to check the spread of the virus that has gripped the globe.

So far, a total of 1,071 cases of coronavirus have been detected in Australia, 436 of them in New South Wales, which has also registered six of the seven deaths in the country. EFE-EPA


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