During last April's peak, the scheme supported some 3.6 million Spaniards. | ENRIQUE CALVO

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Spain's government has reached a preliminary deal with unions and business associations to extend the ERTE furlough scheme until the end of September, the Labour Ministry said on Wednesday.

The programme, which currently supports almost 560,000 workers, was due to expire on May 31.

"We have managed to reach a consensus to renew the ERTE scheme until September, striking a good balance between protections and incentives to reactivate workers," Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriva tweeted.

The scheme has helped cushion Spanish companies from the harshest blows of the COVID-19 pandemic and helped keep unemployment in check, particularly in hard-hit sectors like tourism and hospitality.

During last April's peak, the scheme supported some 3.6 million Spaniards.