Society

New Zealand responds to coronavirus by pledging $12.1 billion for individuals and businesses

The package includes $500 million for health investments.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just announced an extensive $12.1 billion NZD economic package in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The bundle — equivalent to 4% of New Zealand’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) — will work to subsidise businesses, keep employees employed, expand investment in health, pay individuals who are quarantined and unable to work, and increase benefits for the nation’s most vulnerable people.

"Today’s announcement is the first tranche of our response. Our immediate goal is to support people and businesses as we weather the impact of COVID-19. We must then ready the economy to recover,” said Ardern in a press release. “We’ve gone hard with our health response, and now we’re going hard with our financial assistance.”

The most considerable portion of the package is a $5.1 billion wage subsidies plan, intended to ensure hard-hit businesses across all industries can keep workers employed. Likewise, $2.8 billion will be allocated toward both reducing pressure on businesses through tax changes and for income support through increasing benefits, respectively.

Five hundred million will work to boost health services, including for further virus tests, medicines, and facemasks.

Over $125 million will go toward supporting those who are quarantined and unable to work.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Winston Peters said the package aimed to particularly assist the elderly and low-income families.

"Aspects of the package like increasing the Winter Energy Payment will be massively beneficial for those most susceptible — our seniors,” Peters said in a press release. “Other aspects like the wage subsidies, redeployment funding, and building depreciation are designed to minimize the impact on our workers and businesses who are most at risk.”

Peters also made it clear that this was “absolutely not a one-off package,” explaining the government would continuously monitor the impact of the virus and adjust accordingly.

As of March 18, 20 individuals have been diagnosed with coronavirus in New Zealand.

Despite Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States reporting between 400 and 4,000 cases each, health and policy experts claim New Zealand’s economic package has “dwarfed” all three of their respective coronavirus responses. Where New Zealand’s package equates to 4% of GDP, Australia’s is less than 1%.

Do you want to take action to help slow the spread of coronavirus? Global Citizen has launched a new campaign to ensure the World Health Organisation has the funds it needs to respond to the virus and all further health crises appropriately.

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