UPDATE 1-Vietnam sticks to 2020 growth target amid virus concerns

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HANOI, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The Vietnamese government said on Friday it will stick to this year’s economic growth target of 6.8% and take steps to ease the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, another case of which was confirmed in Vietnam a day earlier.

In a statement, the government urged ministries and provinces to speed up projects using the state budget and facilitate business activities to ease impacts of the epidemic.

“The government has agreed to take drastic measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak and persistently pursue the target of maintaining macro-stability to meet the growth target,” it said.

The flu-like virus has killed more than 1,380 people in China, Vietnam’s largest trading partner. Thursday’s case was the 16th confirmed in the southeast Asian nation.

The statement directed the State Bank of Vietnam to funnel funds to manufacturing projects and direct commercial banks to reduce interest rates for firms affected by the virus.

The government also told the Ministry of Finance not to raise the prices of state-controlled products and services, and to facilitate the import of materials and equipment for domestic production.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment said on Wednesday Vietnam must work out a stimulus package this month to help businesses cope with the coronavirus epidemic that is expected to keep the economy from achieving its growth target.

Vietnam has banned all flights to and from China and closed most of the border gates with its giant neighbour.

U.S. manufacturing firms operating in Vietnam are suffering supply chain issues caused by the coronavirus outbreak, according to a survey of American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) members in Vietnam. (Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Catherine Evans)