LISBON, March 13 (Reuters) - Portugal moved to help businesses weather the coronavirus epidemic on Friday with a 2.3 billion euros package, including delaying some tax payments and granting soft loans.
The measures also include the suspension of social security payments and extraordinary support to companies for maintaining jobs contracts during a crisis situation, equal to two-thirds of salaries and to be paid largely by the state.
“The main problem is the lack of liquidity. What we can do is put money in companies’ treasuries so they can preserve their productive capacity and employment,” Economy Minister Pedro Siza Vieira said after an all-night cabinet meeting.
Portugal has so far reported 78 confirmed cases of coronavirus, far below neighbouring Spain where dozens of people have died, but the hotel sector in the tourism-dependent Atlantic coastal country has already been hit.
On Thursday, the government ordered all schools to be shut from next week to contain the epidemic, which Prime Minister Antonio Costa called a threat to survival.
Workers who have to stay at home to care for school children of up to 12 years of age will receive 66% of their base salaries, the government said.
The government also said it was putting health, emergency and security services on high alert starting from Friday. (Reporting by Sergio Goncalves, writing by Andrei Khalip, editing by Alexander Smith)