March 16, 2020 / 2:27 PM / 20 days ago

Dutch businesses rush for government assistance as coronavirus bites

AMSTERDAM, March 16 (Reuters) - At least 20,000 Dutch companies have flooded the government with requests for financial assistance to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus epidemic, the Social Affairs Ministry said on Monday.

The requests would enable businesses to send home 300,000 employees with the state paying a portion of their salaries, the ANP news agency reported. By contrast, there are usually 200 such requests per year.

Companies confronted with a decline of at least 20% in business for a period of at least two weeks are generally eligible for the employment-reduction scheme. The government eased those requirements over the weekend as large segments of the economy came to a standstill.

The Netherlands imposed a wide array of restrictive measures on Sunday to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, including the closure of shops, schools, sport facilities and restaurants until April 6.

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the Netherlands rose by 278 to 1,413, with 24 deaths, the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said.

Businesses in the Netherlands can send staff home to cut costs and a portion of their salaries are paid in the form of state-funded unemployment benefits. (Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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