Japan has decided to subsidize companies planning to invest in increased production of face masks as the country struggles with a shortage amid the spread of the new coronavirus, a government official said Wednesday.

The government plans to subsidize up to 30 million yen ($273,000) per production line, the official said, adding two-thirds of the cost will be funded for major manufacturers and three-quarters for smaller companies.

The decision was made after the government asked mask manufacturers late last month to increase production.

The government will provide the subsidies to selected companies and is also considering buying a proportion of any excess inventory.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he expects the supply crunch to ease next week or thereafter.

By running factories around the clock, the top government spokesman said more than 100 million face masks will be produced in Japan in one week.

In a separate development, the government is considering measures worth about 500 billion yen to support small and medium-sized businesses struggling with cash flow in the wake of viral outbreak, an official said.

The businesses include hotel operators facing cancellations by foreign visitors.

The government plans to use fiscal 2019 reserve funds for emergency loans, the official said, adding the Cabinet may approve the program on Friday.