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Update: Massive economic stimulus to fight virus

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has signalled an unprecedented economic stimulus package to fight the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Morrison government is considering a second round of measures to add to its $17.6 billion economic boost announced last week.

Senator Cormann said businesses would close while people lost jobs during the pandemic that’s sweeping the globe.

“We’re looking at some pretty significant options that we would never have considered in the past,” he told the Seven Network on Tuesday.

“We are working our way through that as we speak.”

The finance minister noted the hospitality and tourism sectors would be among the hardest hit.

“We are focused on supporting those businesses and workers most affected by the downturn of the coronavirus,” Senator Cormann said.

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said one in 13 jobs relied on tourism and hospitality.

“Those businesses and those jobs are all on the line right now,” he told Sky News.

The initial package targeted relief for small and medium businesses, along with cash payments to people on welfare.

The government intends to pass both tranches of its support package when parliament sits next week.

Ministers responsible for the federal budget, and the national security committee, will meet on Tuesday to discuss the stimulus package and wider response to coronavirus.

“This situation has continued to evolve rapidly so our response has to evolve well,” Senator Cormann said.

Aviation is another area of the economy getting smashed, with air travel plummeting as people heed calls to stop the spread of the virus.

“Companies like Qantas and Virgin are under significant pressure, but companies like Coles and Woolworths are dealing with significant demand and significant logistical challenges,” Senator Cormann told Sky News.

“There might be opportunity here to very pragmatically to channel workers from one to the other.”

Senator Birmingham said airlines had enough cash reserves to remain viable for now.

But he didn’t rule out a bailout to stop Qantas and other carriers from going under.

“Not having airlines in Australia is not negotiable, but the airlines at present tell me and assure me they are viable,” he said.

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