Taiwan passes $2 billion package to soften coronavirus hit to economy

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s parliament approved a T$60 billion ($2 billion) package on Tuesday to help cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its export-reliant economy.

The package includes loans for small businesses, subsidies for hard-hit tour agencies, tax cuts for tour bus drivers and even vouchers to spend on food in Taiwan’s famous night markets, normally a top attraction for foreign tourists.

Taiwan, whose largest trading partner is China, cut its estimate for 2020 economic growth this month as the outbreak threatens its economy, which is a key part of the global electronics supply chain.

“Our common enemy is the virus. The 23 million people in Taiwan will definitely not be defeated,” Hung Mong-kai, lawmaker from Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang party, told the parliament after the bill was passed in a rare bipartisan support. “God bless Taiwan.”

The island has only reported 31 cases of the virus and one death, but has largely suspended travel and tourism links with China to curb its spread. China has reported more than 2,600 deaths.

Included in the stimulus legislation is a clause penalizing people who violate government-mandated home quarantine orders, with those in breach possibly facing a T$2 million fine or two years in jail.

Taiwan has reported several cases of people who were supposed to be in quarantine going missing, posing a potential threat to public health.

Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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