The Latest: SKorea households to get financial giveaways

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.


— Coronavirus cases in Africa rise closer to 5,000.

— Thailand seaside resort island of Phuket closes land and sea entry and exit points.

— Australia announces plan to help businesses impacted by virus.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it will provide as much as 1 million won ($817) in gift certificates or electronic coupons to all but the richest 30% of households to help ease the financial shock of the coronavirus outbreak.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki on Monday said the country will spend around 9.1 trillion won ($7.4 billion) on the one-time giveaways that will reach 14 million households.

Hong says officials ruled out cash payments to ensure an increase in consumer spending.

South Korea’s has employed a variety of financial tools to support its economy in face of the global health crisis, such as cutting its policy rate to an all-time low, expanding short-term loans for financial institutions and introducing a rescue package for companies totaling 100 trillion won ($81.7 billion).


ISLAMABAD — Pakistani health officials are confirming eight deaths from coronavirus, raising nationwide fatalities to 21.

It was the biggest jump in deaths in the past 24 hours, which rose from 13 on Sunday to 21 on Monday.

Authorities have so far confirmed 1,658 cases, and at least 10 patients are listed in critical condition at hospitals.

The increase in cases and deaths happened despite nationwide lockdown and closure of Pakistani borders with neighboring China, India, Iran and Afghanistan. Authorities are trying to provide food to needy and poor people who have been unemployed and badly affected by the nationwide lockdown.


JOHANNESBURG — Cases across Africa rose closer to 5,000 on Monday morning as the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 4,760 cases in 46 countries, including 146 deaths.

South Africa has the most cases with 1,280, but testing shortages and backlogs in that country and others could mean that the real numbers are higher.

Zimbabwe’s three-week lockdown began Monday and more cities across the continent were shut down.


MOSCOW — Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Monday instructed regional governors across the vast country to prepare for the introduction of a lockdown introduced in Moscow to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered all city residents except for those working in essential sectors to stay home starting Monday. Residents are allowed to buy food and medicines at nearby stores and pharmacies and walk their dogs in close vicinity.

Legislators are expected to quickly spell out fines and other administrative measures to enforce the lockdown.

Sobyanin’s move follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to announce the current week as nonworking. Putin asked all Russians to stay home, leaving it to regional officials to work out specifics.

Russia so far has registered 1,534 coronavirus cases, but their number has been rising steeply.


BANGKOK — Thailand's popular seaside resort island of Phuket has closed all land and sea entry and exit points until April 30 to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana says a ban on air travel will start on April 10. Phuket attracts many foreign tourists whose travel plans have been disrupted by the widespread cancellation of international flights.

Thailand registered 39 million international arrivals last year. Phuket is a top destination for tourists, hosting more than 10 million visitors annually, including Thais.

Phuket's land travel ban, which became effective Monday, makes exceptions for transport of food and essential items, emergency vehicles and vehicles carrying publications.

Ships are banned from entering and leaving Phuket's international port, with exceptions for cargo ships, which can unload their cargoes but not allow crews to disembark before leaving as soon as possible.


CANBERRA, Australia -- Australia has announced a 130 billion Australian dollar ($80 billion) plan to subsidize businesses damaged by the new coronavirus to pay to up to six million staff a minimum wage to keep them in the work force for the next six months.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday that businesses that have lost 30% of revenue because of the COVID-19 outbreak would be eligible for the subsidy, which is part of what he describes as a hibernation strategy for the economy.

The government would pay AU$750 a week of employees’ wages, which is equivalent to the minimum wage and 70% of Australia’s median wage. The government expects half of Australia’s employees will be subsidized.

The government will have to recall Parliament to approve the spending.

The measure brings total government economic support to response to the virus to AU$320 billion, which is 16.4% of GDP.

Australia’s banks announced on Monday that 98% of businesses with bank loans are eligible for a six-month deferral of repayments on loans worth AU$250 billion.


TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday its auto plants in Europe will halt production, at least until April 20, because of the new coronavirus outbreak.

Its European plants are in France, Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Turkey and Portugal.

All its plants in China resumed normal production Monday, spokeswoman Kayo Doi said. Japan’s top automaker also stopped production in Russia, through Friday. It earlier halted assembly lines in North America and has partially shut down production in Japan, South America and parts of Asia.


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