(Add details, quote from Minister of Finance)

TUNIS, April 10 (Reuters) – Tunisia on Friday secured a $ 743 million loan from the International Monetary Fund to help counter the economic effects of the coronavirus, Finance Minister Nizar Yaich told Reuters.

The loan will be extended as part of an IMF program to support countries during the coronavirus crisis, the official said.

Tunisia has confirmed 643 cases of the virus and 25 deaths. The infection hammers its vital tourism sector which represents nearly 10% of the gross domestic product.

“This loan is very important for Tunisia at this difficult time as the government works hard to mobilize financial resources to deal with this unprecedented crisis,” Yaich said.

Tunisia has also received 250 million euros ($ 272 million) in financial assistance from the European Union.

Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said this month that the government is allocating more than $ 1 billion to combat the economic and social effects of the pandemic.

The North African country has started negotiations with the IMF for a new loan program.

The government now expects an economic recession, forcing the central bank last month to cut its key interest rate by 100 basis points, its first rate cut since 2011. ($ 1 = 0.9205 euros) ( Report by Tarek Amara; edited by Susan Fenton)


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