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Britain's Lloyds offers relief to small firms hit by coronavirus

LONDON, March 10 (Reuters) - Britain’s biggest domestic bank Lloyds is offering relief on fees and loan repayments to some small firms hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

It follows rival NatWest, which on Monday offered similar relief to small firms.

Lloyds said it would offer 2 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) of finance with no fees to affected small firms that have a turnover of up to 25 million pounds. The funding is part of its expected 18 billion pound of business lending this year.

Lloyds has itself been impacted by the virus, shutting a call centre in Northern Ireland that employs 1,000 people after a member of staff tested positive for the virus.

Britain has so far reported five deaths and 321 cases of the coronavirus.

Some businesses have had to shut offices and ask employees to work from home, while cross-border supply chains have also been disrupted.

NatWest on Monday offered relief to small firms and a 5 billion pound boost to its small business support fund.

Lloyds said its managers had spoken to more than 10,000 SMEs about the outbreak, but said the damage on businesses so far had been minimal.

It said any loan repayment holidays would be offered subject to individual agreements.

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