NICOSIA, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The government of Cyprus decided on Thursday to introduce a new economic aid package worth 500 million euros (552 million U.S. dollars) to directly support businesses and workers for one month, thereby increasing its total economic assistance to 1.25 billion euros to allay the impact of COVID-19.
Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said it was important for the package to pass parliamentary procedures by the end of Friday, so that 280,000 workers and 60,000 businesses receive money on their bank accounts by the end of the month.
The new package adds about 2.3 percent of Cyprus' gross domestic product (GDP) to the original 750-million-euro package, which amounted to 3.4 percent of GDP.
The Council of Ministers also approved a bill suspending repayment of loans for nine months and a two-billion-euro stimulus plan in a bid to boost liquidity in the economy amid the ongoing crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Petrides said the two-billion-euro package will directly guarantee loans and overdrafts.
The government's spokesman said earlier that the European Central Bank had given its approval and thus the suspended loans will not be considered non-performing.
"The guarantees will be given directly to businesses and individuals, not to the banks....The entire government policy aims at preserving jobs and avoiding bankruptcies," Petrides told journalists after the cabinet meeting.
The Cypriot government imposed a lockdown on businesses and drastic restrictions on movement in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The Health Ministry said on Thursday evening that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 146 since the first infection was confirmed on March 9.
There were 47 confirmed coronavirus cases by Thursday in the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus, raising the tally for the entire island to 193.