Italy to provide 5.4-bln-euro aid package to businesses hurt by latest COVID-19 restrictions

ROME, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Italy's cabinet on Tuesday approved new financial aid to the businesses most hurt by the latest restrictions implemented to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The economic package worth some 5.4 billion billion euros (6.38 billion U.S. dollars) includes 5 billion in non-repayable funds and some tax reliefs and benefits to most-hit sectors such as culture, tourism, agriculture and sport.

The non-repayable funds will be specifically allocated to restaurants, bars, pubs, and all other food and drink shops. They will be delivered as early as November, Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said Monday in an interview to state-run RAI 1.

From the midnight of Oct. 25 through Nov. 24, pubs, bars, restaurants, and ice cream shops must shut down at 6 p.m. following a specific government decree.

Movie theaters, concert halls, gyms, swimming pools, as well as gaming and betting halls, must shut down. All contact sports are suspended except for national leagues.

Also suspended for a month are conferences, trade fairs, and civil ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. Museums can stay open.

The cabinet agreed on these new restrictions after witnessing a worrying spike in the pandemic curve in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry registered 21,994 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, a new daily record that brought the country's assessed cases to 564,778.

In the last three days, street protests against the new restrictions broke out in several cities, including Italy's major financial hub Milan and the capital Rome. While most rallies went peacefully, some protests turned violent.

The latest developments here came amid a global effort to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus, involving some European Union (EU) member states, Britain, China, Russia and the United States.

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