FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said the National Insurance Property Development Company (Nipdec) will provide 1,000 cloth, face masks to each of the 41 MPs of the House of Representatives, for distribution to their constituents during the covid19 pandemic.
Imbert made this announcement as he opened debate on the Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2021) Bill, 2021 in the Senate on Friday.
Imbert said," I am very pleased to announce this morning, that yesterday, a number of MPs will receive on behalf of the Government, through Nipdec, 1,000 face masks each.
"We are now distributing – by the end of next week, we should have distributed 41,000 cloth face masks, 1,000 to each MP office, courtesy of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, for distribution to their constituents."
Imbert said the government had spent "just over US$10 million...(TT) $70 million...to pay for the commercial shipment...actually more than one commercial shipment for vaccines, and also to pay a downpayment..those are the Sinopharm vaccines that I am referring to...we have made two payments in full...for two substantial shipments of Sinopharm vaccines."
He said Government has also made a downpayment to the Africa Vaccination Acquisition Trust (AVAT) for additional vaccines.
"Prior to that commercial acquisition of Sinopharm vaccines, we had received donations, and the last time I checked, I saw donations of the order of 170,000 or less."
Imbert said these donations included doses of Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines.
"We also paid for three shipments of AstraZeneca vaccines from the Covax alliance."
He said those shipments were of over 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"When you put all of that together, you get vaccines of over 250,000, outside of the commercial arrangements with Sinopharm and the multilateral arrangements with the AVAT,"
When the vaccines from Sinopharm and AVAT arrangements are added to vaccines acquired through donations, Imbert said, "You would have sufficient vaccines..800,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines from AVAT, significant other vaccines from Sinopharm and AstraZeneca. You would have sufficient vaccines to vaccinate 1.2 million people."
Imbert estimated the first shipment of AVAT vaccines would arrive in August.
"The other vaccines are either here already or on their way."
He also said 30,000 people have applied for his ministry's Salary Relief Grant and the possibility of extending it to June will be explored.
Later in the sitting, Opposition Senator Wade Mark described the public mass covid19 vaccination programme as a total fiasco. He demanded a forensic audit into all covid19 expenditure, the resignation or dismissal of Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and for the Prime Minister to call a general election immediately.
Mark asked why people seeking vaccines at various health centres were being told only 100 or 50 shots could be administered daily. He prayed that in two weeks' time the congregations of people outside health centres would not lead to another surge in covid19 cases.
"The Government has failed miserably," he charged.