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World Bank approves $300 million loan to fight poverty amid COVID-19 in Ukraine

A woman wearing a protective mask against COVID-19 waits to cross the street on a rainy in Kyiv, Ukraine October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/Files

KYIV (Reuters) - The World Bank has approved an additional loan of $300 million to help Ukraine’s government support low-income families amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the bank said late on Friday.

“The new funds will help finance Ukraine’s COVID-19 social protection emergency response by introducing fast cash transfers to individuals and households who have lost their jobs or income sources because of the pandemic,” it said in a statement.

The new assistance will be added to the first tranche of $150 million provided in April under the Social Safety Nets Modernization Project as the bank projected that poverty in Ukraine could increase by 4%, reaching around 23% by the end of 2020.

Ukraine has registered 12,811 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 885,039 with 14,998 deaths since the pandemic started.

The government had decided to introduce tight lockdown restrictions from Jan. 8, hoping to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 infections.

The measures, which include the closure of schools, cafes, restaurants, gyms and trade and entertainment centres, a ban on mass gatherings may further increase the level of unemployment that stood at 9.6% at the end of June.

Ukraine’s economy plunged 11.4% in the second quarter when the similar measures were imposed.

The government expects gross domestic product to decline by about 5% in the whole 2020 after business activity started recovering in the second half of the year.

The World Bank, a major international partner of Ukraine, has committed about $14 billion for more than 80 projects and programs since the country joined the bank in 1992.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Toby Chopra

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