UPDATE 1-National Bank of Ethiopia to inject $450 million as liquidity for private banks

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ADDIS ABABA, March 27 (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s National Bank plans to inject 15 billion Ethiopian birr ($456 million) as liquidity for private banks, part of government measures to cushion the economy over the impact of the coronavirus, the prime minister’s office said on Friday.

“National Bank of Ethiopia to avail 15 billion birr liquidity for private banks to enable them to provide debt relief and additional loans to their customers in need,” said Abiy Ahmed’s office in a statement.

The government said it will implement tax exemptions for imports of products related to curbing the coronavirus outbreak and make foreign currency available for importers.

Africa’s second most populous nation has registered just 16 cases so far, but the virus has already hit the country’s economy hard. It is a major supplier of coffee and flowers to Europe.

Schools and universities have been shut since March 16. The government extended that on Friday for two more weeks and called upon retired and in-training medical personnel to “prepare for national duty”.

Across Africa, 46 countries have collectively reported more than 2300 coronavirus cases and at least 80 deaths. ($1 = 32.7523 birr) (Reporting by Giulia Paravicini; writing by Omar Mohammed; editing by Alison Williams)