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Italy adopts COVID-19 stimulus measures worth €32 billion

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Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi speaks during a press conference following a Cabinet meeting in Rome, Friday, March 19, 2021.
Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi speaks during a press conference following a Cabinet meeting in Rome, Friday, March 19, 2021.   -   Copyright  Alberto Pizzoli/Pool/AFP
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The Italian government adopted stimulus measures worth €32 billion on Friday to combat the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.

"This decree is a significant and very coherent response to poverty and to businesses, it is a partial response, but it is the maximum that we have been able to do," Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters in Rome.

Around €11 billion will be devoted to companies and auto-entrepreneurs in difficulty that lost at least 30% of their revenues in 2020. A total of €8 billion were allocated to the fight against poverty and measures to support employment, said economy minister Daniele Franco.

Italy was the first country hit by the pandemic in Europe and imposed a strict lockdown in March and April 2020, which paralysed much of the economy.

Roughly 450,000 people, mostly women and young people, lost their jobs last year and the GDP collapsed by 8.9%.

Rome will inherit the largest share of Europe's €750 billion stimulus plan and must submit a national plan to Brussels by the end of April but the new PM Mario Draghi intends to make changes.

Freeze on layoffs and other support measures passed by the Council of Ministers

The government also extended a freeze on layoffs until the end of June and for some companies until the end of October.

Aid of around €900 million will be allocated to seasonal workers who cannot benefit from partial unemployment. Several sectors hard hit by the pandemic will receive additional aid including the culture sector and mountains sector.

About €5 billion were allocated towards health including the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19 and medicines. The government allocated €200 million for vaccine production in Italy.

These emergency measures are in addition to the more than €100 billion already mobilised by Italy last year to revive economic sectors shut down during lockdown.

Much of the country recently went back into lockdown this past week as infections rise.