Sweden launches coronavirus crisis package worth more than $30 billion

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The Swedish government on Monday presented a package of measures worth more than 300 billion Swedish crowns ($30.94 billion) to support the economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The package included measures such as the central government assuming the full cost for sick leave from companies through the months of April and May, as well as the brunt of the cost for temporary redundancies due to the crisis.

On Sunday, airline SAS, which is partially state-owned, announced it would temporarily lay off up to 90% of its staff.

The biggest cost will come from allowing companies to put off paying tax and VAT for up to a year - retroactive to the start of 2020 - which Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said by itself could cost up to 300 billion crowns in the short term.

“This is a completely unique situation for the Swedish economy,” Andersson told a news conference.

“We want this decision to mean that as many companies as possible get through this crisis so that we can protect Swedish companies and Swedish jobs.”

Andersson said that Sweden was in a strong position to bear the financial costs of the outbreak with strong government finances and government debt at its lowest since the late 1970s.

Sweden has already announced extra cash for local authorities to help fight the coronavirus outbreak while the central bank has provided up to 500 billion Swedish crowns in loans to companies through the banking system.

Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Simon Johnson; editing by Johannes Hellstrom