ATHENS, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Greece's government announced on Wednesday a second package of economic measures to address the effects of the spread of novel coronavirus.
The new set of measures worth 3.8 billion euros (4.18 billion U.S dollars) includes further support for the healthcare sector and the suspension for four months of tax and social security payment obligations for businesses and employees affected by shutdowns, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told a press briefing, the Greek national news agency AMNA reported.
The state will support employers as long as they do not proceed to firings and employees will receive in April a benefit of 800 euro if their labor contracts are suspended temporarily, he said.
According to the ministry's estimates, 200,000 enterprises and more than 500,000 employees will be affected during the first stage.
In addition, the value-added tax (VAT) rate will be reduced from 24 percent to 6 percent for masks, gloves, disinfectants, soap and personal hygiene products.
"More measures will follow in order to emerge from the battle with as few as possible social and financial losses. We need to face the crisis united," Staikouras said, noting that two billion euros will be covered by the Greek state budget and 1.8 billion euros by the special European fund.
"The crisis will pass," Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ioannis Vroutsis said at the briefing, which was broadcast by Greek national broadcaster ERT.
On March 10, the government outlined an initial series of economic measures focusing on the strengthening of the healthcare system and the suspension of VAT and social security contribution payments.
On Tuesday, Greece announced that a fifth person had died from COVID-19 and confirmed that the number of cases nationwide stood at 387.
The country has shut down schools, universities, restaurants, cafes, shopping malls, gyms and cultural venues.
As of Wednesday, all retail stores are closed, with bakeries, supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations remaining open.
Until the end of March, bans and restrictions have also been introduced on air and sea connections with several countries.
Greece has banned entry to non-EU citizens, with exceptions strictly for urgent family or business reasons. (1 euro = 1.10 U.S. dollars)