SEOUL (Reuters): South Korea unveiled a fresh 9.3 trillion won (US$8.49 billion) package on Tuesday (Dec 29) to support small businesses hit by a third wave of coronavirus and those vulnerable to unemployment due to the outbreak.
Of the total package, 5.6 trillion won will be used to fund cash handouts to coronavirus-struck small businesses, temporary or freelance workers and taxi drivers affected by the prolonged pandemic, the finance ministry said.
Some 2.9 trillion won will be used to support small and medium-sized businesses including ski resorts and hotels, which received damage from the government's year-end special Covid-19 regulations, and to keep more Koreans in jobs.
The South Korean government has added new restrictions this week such as banning gatherings of more than four people and suspending ski resorts and tourist sports, aimed at stopping the virus spread during Christmas and New Year holidays.
Another 0.8 trillion won is aimed at strengthening the public health system.
The ministry said the cash handouts will be offered starting from Jan 11, and expects that the latest measures could help around a total 5.8 million people.
The Yonhap news agency, citing the presidential office, reported that the government will sign a deal with Moderna Inc to offer Covid-19 vaccines for 20 million people.
This comes a day after officials vowed to speed up efforts to launch a public coronavirus vaccination programme as the country detected its first cases of the virus variant linked to the rapid rise in infections in Britain.
Meanwhile, the $8.5 billion package will be funded by the finance ministry's reserve fund, leftover budget for the year as well as 2021 budget, the ministry said in a statement.
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