China, Coronavirus
Health workers fumigating.

The Russian government said Monday it would unlock $4 billion to help the economy with the coronavirus pandemic and urged businesses to help slow the spread of the virus.

Reserves of 300 billion rubles ($4 billion) “can be used by the government within the framework of this year’s budget to cover top priority needs when it comes to expenses and support of industries and citizens,” Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said at a government meeting.

Mishustin said the authorities should help in particular the trade, tourism and aviation sectors, including by allowing companies to defer tax payments, and announced that the government would expand lending offers to small and medium-sized enterprises.

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The agriculture ministry also held a meeting with agriculture sector officials and farming associations to discuss priority measures, it said in a statement on its website.

Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev ordered regional authorities to create emergency bodies to monitor food prices and stocks in stores within two days.

Russia has reported 93 new coronavirus cases, 50 in Moscow, with no deaths.

He also called on regions to build up two-month stores of essential food products and to look at ways of  “significantly increasing the volume of agricultural production in a short time.”

Russia is one of the world’s largest grain exporters.

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Mishustin called on Russian businesses — particularly large corporations — to take steps to halt the spread of the coronavirus and asked for solutions to help the government.

“The fight against the pandemic is a task not only for state structures but for all of society,” he said.

The prime minister also urged every Russian “to help and take care of each other”.

Mishustin praised the preventative measures his government has taken so far and pledged transparency with future steps.

“We should do everything so that the situation does not develop like it is developing in other countries,” Mishustin said.

He also said Russia was closing its border with Belarus, a close political and economic ally.

Last week the Russian government announced measures to support the tumbling ruble amid falling oil prices after OPEC and Moscow failed to agree a deal to reduce output and Saudi Arabia launched an all-out price war.

Russian economic growth slowed to 1.3 percent in 2019 but the Kremlin had ambitious plans for higher growth in 2020 before the virus outbreak.


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