Italy econ minister says avoiding COVID lockdown is "absolute priority"

by Reuters
Friday, 30 October 2020 11:28 GMT

ROME, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Italian Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said on Friday it was the government's "absolute priority" to avoid a national coronavirus lockdown which would derail the strong economic recovery seen in the third quarter.

Gualtieri said in a speech to bankers in Rome that the rebound of 16.1% in gross domestic product between July and September meant even if there is a contraction in the fourth quarter Italy will meet its full year GDP forecast of -9%.

"It is the government's absolute priority to contain coronavirus infections so as to avoid a general lockdown," Gualtieri said.

He added that the government would extend a moratorium on small and medium-sized companies' loan repayments to banks, and was ready to adopt further economic stimulus measures if necessary.

Like much of Europe, Italy is reeling from a second wave of the coronavirus and on Thursday it registered a new record of almost 27,000 new infections.

The country has seen more than 28,000 COVID-related deaths since its outbreak came to light in late February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain's.

Gualtieri said the risk of a renewed economic slowdown in the fourth quarter meant 2021 GDP growth may come in below Rome's 6% target, but in this case "the recovery would only be delayed." (Reporting by Gavin Jones and Giuseppe Fonte)

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