By Byun Duk-kun
SEOUL, Feb. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Friday announced massive financial steps, worth more than US$16 billion, to help minimize the economic fallout from the new coronavirus outbreak that has already affected the country's economic activities.
Under its latest set of measures, the government will provide up to 16 trillion won (US$13.2 billion) in support to people and businesses affected by the outbreak of COVID-19.
The amount will be in addition to over 4 trillion won the government has already spent or earmarked for such purposes, according to the finance ministry.
The ministry said the country's local spending has plummeted since the country reported its first infection case late last month and more steeply since Feb. 19 when it began to see clusters of mass infections.
Last week, sales of major department stores here plunged over 20 percent from a year earlier, while the number of visitors at local lodgings dropped more than 24 percent over the cited period, according to the ministry.
To boost local spending, the government will provide up to 2.8 trillion won in gift vouchers and other financial support for households, along with an additional 1.7 trillion won in tax incentives for landlords who temporarily lower their rent for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the virus outbreak, it said.
The second set of emergency support measures comes one day after the country's central bank slashed its 2020 growth outlook for Asia's fourth-largest economy to 2.1 percent from the previous 2.3 percent, mainly citing the slump in local consumption caused by the virus outbreak.
"The government came up with the second set of measures that can be swiftly implemented by the administration and other related agencies to enable more active support for efforts to overcome the damage and revitalize the economy," the ministry said in a press release.
The package also includes 9 trillion won in financial support to be provided by financial institutions, including the central bank, to local businesses.
The Bank of Korea said Thursday it will provide an additional 5 trillion won to pay for the cost of local lenders that extend special, low-interest loans to small and midsized firms.
The finance ministry also reaffirmed its push for an extra budget.
"It will seek to draw up a supplementary budget as the need for fiscal spending has recently expanded due to the fast spreading of the virus and the steep rise in the number of infection cases in local communities," it said.
As of Friday, 2,022 people have been confirmed to be infected with the potentially deadly virus and 13 people have died from it.
The country reported its first virus case on Jan.20.
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