President Tommy Remengesau Jr. will work with the Olbiil Era Kelulau to consider measures to help small businesses that will be hit by the tourism downturn due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview, Mr. Remengesau said the government would take steps to support small businesses that will be “directly affected” by the tourism slump as a result of the coronavirus fears.

He said the assistance could be in the form of an extended grace period for payment of loans of some boat operators that might get hit by the decreased tourist arrivals.

Remengesau is optimistic though that construction activity will still stimulate the economy despite the anticipated decrease in arrivals due to travel bans imposed by Palau and several other countries.

“I will work with the OEK on the measures to help small businesses,” he said.

Finance Minister ElbuchelSadang said the economy is expected to take a dive,

President Remengesau earlier asked the Bureau of Tourism and the Palau Visitors Authority to work with the private sector to assess business projections with expected impacts the outbreak will have on the economy.

BOT said it has been consulting with the private sector to come up with measures that can help the businesses stay afloat during the crisis.

On Wednesday World Health Organization (WHO) made the assessment that COVID-19 can now be characterized as a pandemic.

WHO’s director-general, TedrosAdhanom Ghebreyesus said that n the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled.

There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do,” Ghebreyesus.

For Palau, the President praised the Taiwan government for assistance in confirmatory tests, which makes the nation more, prepared “testing wise.”

A temporary ban is still in place of direct flights and cruise ships originating from or transiting through Mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau until March 31.

Palau also bans of entry of foreign travelers from these areas in the past 14 days.