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UPDATE 1-Italy ready to raise 2021 deficit to support businesses through Covid-19 - PM

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MILAN, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Italy’s government is ready to increase its 2021 budget deficit and review this year’s to fund further compensation for businesses hit by COVID-19, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a newspaper interview published on Wednesday.

Rome last week approved a 2.9 billion euro ($3.42 billion)aid package to cushion the economic blow from restrictions introduced to stem a resurgence of the pandemic.

“We are ready to intervene in favour of all those who will suffer further losses, including through increasing the 2021 deficit and revising the deficit trend for 2020”, Conte told daily La Stampa.

The budget deficit is currently targeted at 10.8% of gross domestic product this year and 7% in 2021.

Conte told the paper a new nationwide lockdown was not the government’s “first choice, as the costs would be too high”.

New limitations, which came into force on Friday, are less severe than the national lockdown Rome imposed in March. They divide the country into three zones according to the intensity of the epidemic.

Many shops and businesses have been shut in the highest-risk zones such as Milan’s Lombardy region, where people can only leave their homes for work, health reasons or emergencies.

Conte added that the government would soon present to parliament a national plan for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Italy expects to receive 3.4 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech probably in January, a government source told Reuters on Tuesday. ($1 = 0.8470 euros) (Reporting by Cristina Carlevaro, editing by Stephen Jewkes and Andrew Heavens)

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