Coronavirus: Sonia urges people not to panic, pitches for relief package

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NEW DELHI, March 21 (AGENCIES): Congress president Sonia Gandhi urged people on Saturday not to panic in view of the coronavirus outbreak and said the country will not bow down to this painful crisis.

She suggested a host of measures to help those affected due to the coronavirus and said a comprehensive, sector-wise relief package was required to be announced by the government to support those hit by its economic fallout.

In a statement, Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government to increase the number of testing facilities across the country and make public the details of hospitals and medical facilities through a dedicated portal. She also pitched for a special budgetary allocation for enhancing the facilities to combat the virus.

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. A comprehensive, sector-wise relief package needs to be announced forthwith by the government, including necessary tax breaks, interest subvention and deferment of liabilities. For the salaried class, the government and the RBI must consider a deferment of EMIs,” the Congress chief said. She called for special financial incentives for those manufacturing protective gear to combat the virus.

Gandhi said COVID-19 was a huge setback for millions of daily wage earners, MGNREGA workers, ad-hoc and temporary employees, labourers, farmers and those in the unorganised sector.

“Even for regular employees, reports suggest massive layoffs and retrenchments. The government has to put in place broad-based social protection measures, including direct cash financial help to these sections,” she said. The Congress chief noted that all businesses, especially the micro, small and medium ones, were under a huge stress on account of the coronavirus outbreak.

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