New Zealand launches $7.36 bln economic stimulus package to fight COVID-19

WELLINGTON, March 17 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand government on Tuesday launched "the most significant peace-time economic plan in modern New Zealand history" to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 to support Kiwis' jobs and the domestic economy from the virus.

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The 12.1 billion NZ dollar (7.36 billion U.S. dollars) package is worth 4 percent of GDP, a larger plan than that was implemented in response to the Global Financial Crisis and comparatively larger than the relief packages announced to date in Australia, Britain and the United States.
"The government is pulling out all the stops to protect the health of New Zealanders and the health of our economy," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.
She said the best protection for our economy is getting the virus under control, which is why we are investing half a billion dollars in frontline health services to fight the COVID-19.
The stimulus plan will be investing in more health staff, more virus testing, more medicines, face masks, extra intensive care capacity and equipment at hospitals, and more money for GPs (General Practitioners), Ardern said.
"If we can manage the virus, we can mitigate the damage to the economy," she added.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said this package is about "protecting New Zealander's health, protecting the vulnerable, protecting livelihoods, and ensuring the quickest recovery possible on all fronts."
Aspects of the package like increasing the Winter Energy Payment will be massively beneficial for those most susceptible, such as senior people, Peters said, adding other aspects like the wage subsidies, redeployment funding and building depreciation are designed to minimize the impact on workers and businesses who are most at risk.
Three new COVID-19 cases were reported in New Zealand on Tuesday, bringing the country's total number to 11.
"All these cases are associated with overseas travel," said the health ministry's Director-General Ashley Bloomfield.