UPDATE 1-Tunisia secures $743 million loan from IMF to counter effects of coronavirus

(Adds details, finance minister quote)

By Tarek Amara

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

The loan will be extended under an IMF scheme to support countries during the coronavirus crisis, the official said.

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

“This loan is very important to Tunisia in this difficult moment as the government is working hard to mobilize financial resources to confront this unprecedented crisis,” Yaich said.

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

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

The North Africa country has started negotiations with the IMF for a new loan programme.

The government now expects an economic recession, prompting 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) (Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Susan Fenton)