Norway is establishing a coronavirus crisis fund worth at least NOK 100 billion ($10 billion) to secure the liquidity in companies, the newspaper Aftenposten reported.
According to Prime Minister Erna Solberg, half of it is earmarked for small- and medium-sized businesses and the other half for large companies. The goal is to help them survive the country’s worst economic downturn in many years.
“We are in a crisis,” Prime Minister Solberg declared at a press conference Sunday evening. According to her, the most important job was to “limit the outbreak of the coronavirus as much as possible and to save lives”.
“We do this to ensure Norwegian business and secure Norwegian workplaces,” Solberg added, promising tax relief measures.
While stressing that the $10 billion fund is only the first step, the government made it clear that that layoffs will be unavoidable in the next few weeks. Solberg said that numerous companies had already seen their revenues “vanish overnight”.
The coronavirus has crippled a wide range of businesses, with airlines, hotels, other tourism-related firms, restaurants and most all cultural events hit the hardest. Norwegian and SAS airlines have both seen seen ticket sales come to a grinding halt, as thousands of flights have been cancelled.
The CEO of the hard-hit Norwegian Air compared the situation to “suddenly being caught in a war without bombs and grenades”. SAS announced that after cutting most of its flights, it had to lay of up to 90 percent of its staff now that the COVID-19 crisis has virtually halted all air travel.
Earlier this weekend, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen presented a similar DKK 2.6 billion ($390 million) package to protect employees and companies. The package was developed in record time and includes measures that will be valid until 9 June. "Wait a little with the layoffs" was its main message, according to Danish Radio.
“Denmark is in an extraordinary situation. Therefore, I am pleased that we also have extraordinarily responsible companies, trade unions and employees,” Mette Frederiksen noted.
A total of 1,077 people in Norway have been registered as infected with the coronavirus, with the death toll at three.
In Denmark, there are 864 infected and one dead.