Coronavirus: Italy to suspend mortgage payments amid outbreak

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image captionLaura Castelli made the comments to Radio Anch'io

Mortgage payments will be suspended across Italy as part of measures to soften the economic blow of coronavirus on households, a minister has said.

Laura Castelli, Italy's deputy economy minister, told Radio Anch'io: "Yes, that will be the case, for individuals and households."

Italy's banking lobby group ABI said lenders would offer debt holidays to small firms and families.

Suspending debt payments is not unheard of in Italy.

Some small businesses and families were given time off during the financial crisis before having to repay.

Italy has extended its emergency coronavirus measures, which include travel restrictions and a ban on public gatherings, to the entire country.

On Monday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered people to stay home and seek permission for essential travel.

Italy's coronavirus death toll jumped from 366 to 463 on Monday. It is the worst-hit country after China.

The Italian economy is still being nursed back to health following the financial crisis a decade ago.

In 2019, total production of goods and services was approximately the same as it was 15 years earlier. What's more, it was still 4% below the level it reached in 2007, just before the financial crisis.

Unemployment is also a persistent problem, especially among young people. The unemployment rate among under-25s is 28.9%, with only Spain and Greece having higher figures in the EU.

In the last two years, Italy has also had to contend with weaker global growth and a slowdown in international trade. In the final quarter of last year, GDP fell by 0.3%.

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