March 16, 2020 / 6:46 AM / in 13 days

Italy ready to offer further measures to combat coronavirus, PM tells paper

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s government is ready to intervene again, if needed, as measures approved so far are not enough to support businesses and households hit by a coronavirus outbreak, the prime minister said on Monday.

Italy is the second worst hit country in the world after China, where the illness first emerged late last year, and the outbreak has shown no signs of slowing, with 24,747 cases and 1,809 deaths by Sunday.

“The approved measures are not sufficient. Damage (from the coronavirus) will be serious and widespread. A true ‘reconstruction plan’ will be needed,” Giuseppe Conte told daily Corriere della Sera in an interview.

“After the coronavirus nothing will be as before, we will have to sit down and rewrite the rules of trade and the free market.”

The government has said planned economic support would total some 25 billion euros (22.69 billion pounds), with a cabinet meeting on Monday expected to approve new measures to support businesses and families.

“We are responding with rules that will allow our economy to face the costs of the emergency. We are ready, if necessary, to intervene again to relaunch the country,” the premier added.

Conte said no further bans were needed but it was important to “scrupulously” respect existing ones.

FILE PHOTO - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks to media as he announces a decree that will close cinemas, schools in order to contain the coronavirus, in Rome, Italy March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Last week the government imposed nationwide restrictions to curb the virus spread, closing schools, shops and sporting events and ordering people to stay home, except for essential travel.

“Scientists are telling us that the outbreak has not reached it peak, these weeks will be the most risky, and the maximum precaution is needed,” Conte said, explaining that the lockdown’s results will be seen in a few weeks.

The government is working urgently to get medical equipment as doubts grow over the ability of a strained health system to cope with the persistent rise in new cases, particularly in the northern region of Lombardy, where the virus emerged almost a month ago.

Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Clarence Fernandez

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