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China allocates 71.9b yuan to fight coronavirus


CHINA'S finance ministry said on Sunday that all levels of government had allocated a total of 71.85 billion yuan (S$14.3 billion) as at Saturday afternoon to fight coronavirus.

The ministry will deploy the funds to ensure that members of public can afford diagnosis and treatment, it said in a statement on its website.

The funds will also be used to ensure that efforts of every region to fight the virus are not hampered by financial constraints, it added.

China's Hubei province, the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak, will offer subsidies and cut costs for small and medium-sized firms to help them cope with the impact of the epidemic, the local government said on Sunday. It said that it would pay 30 per cent of electricity costs for those involved in medical supplies, and cut the prices of water and natural gas for other smaller enterprises.

It will also move to cut rent, environmental inspection fees and financing costs for small and medium-sized firms and grant tax exemptions if they have been hit hard by the coronavirus.

The People's Daily newspaper, citing the local education bureau, reported on Sunday that the northern Chinese province of Hebei will keep its schools shut until at least March 1 to control the coronavirus outbreak.

Hebei, which surrounds the capital Beijing, is one of a number of provinces and municipalities to extend the school shutdown until the end of the month, with others including Shandong, Jiangsu and Shanghai.

Also on Sunday, state broadcaster CCTV reported that China's cabinet said workers in key industries must be helped to return to work as soon as possible in order to resume the production of vital food and medical supplies disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The State Council's special coronavirus group ordered railways, airlines and other public transport to take a coordinated approach and minimise the risk of transmitting disease.

It will also expand the coverage and speed of screening procedures. It also said workers should return in "batches" and not all at once in order to reduce infection risks. REUTERS