• Kyodo

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A new economic package will include increased subsidies for medical institutions to help them secure more beds for coronavirus patients, a government draft of the stimulus showed Thursday.

As for companies maintaining employment despite worsening business conditions, the government plans to extend its financial aid for two months beyond December, with the daily payment of up to ¥15,000 per employee remaining unchanged, according to the document.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by Kyodo News, shows that the amount of subsidies for local governments that can be used to assist restaurants shortening operating hours will be raised, though without giving specific figures.

Amid a resurgence of infections in various parts of the country, with the nationwide daily tally recently topping 2,600, the new economic package is expected to be approved next week by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet.

To finance the additional measures, the government is planning to draft a third supplementary budget totaling ¥20 trillion for the current fiscal year through March, according to senior officials.

The number of patients with serious symptoms of the novel coronavirus in Japan reached a record 497 on Thursday, raising concerns over the strain on the health care system. The number of new cases across the country has hit record highs multiple times since mid-November.

Since the outbreak of the virus, Japan has allocated about ¥2.7 trillion in total to the medical sector, such as providing assistance to hospitals securing beds for COVID-19 patients and front-line medical workers, according to the health ministry.

The economic package is also likely to include the extension of the government’s subsidy program aimed at promoting domestic travel beyond its initial expiry at the end of January.

In addition to pandemic-related measures, the draft showed that a new fund will be set up to support firms working in the research and development of next-generation batteries, hydrogen fuel and carbon recycling. The initiative is part of Japan’s efforts to achieve the goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

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