JUST over half a billion dollars have been spent in the past 18 months by the Health Ministry in fighting covid19, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told the Parliament on Friday. It was not clear if the amount given included the cost of vaccines.
Speaking during debate on the 2021/2022 budget, Deyalsingh said he hoped that by next year the expenditure would be lower.
In August, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said over $5 billion was spent on covid19 with about $75 million spent on vaccines.
On Friday, Deyalsingh said: "The covid19 experience has cost this country $509.7 million. For consumables, $151.1 million. Equipment $42.1 million; human resource for hiring over 1,000 persons, the majority of which are doctors and nurses, $277.3 million and infrastructure $36.2 million."
Deyalsingh also dismissed Opposition MP Anita Haynes' claim that the government was coercing people to take the vaccine.
"We are giving people the options, we are giving people the information, and that type of talk, is not helping the national vaccination programme."
He advised Haynes and others to be careful how they characterise the vaccination programme.
He continued: "We are not into coercing anybody, but we are giving people the choice to make an informed decision."
He said there were nine hospitals and seven step-down facilities to address the pandemic. He called on the Opposition to support the Government in the war against the virus.
The private sector, he said joined the fight and spent some $18.6 million on vaccination sites. Daily it costs $75,000 to $200,000 for the government to run vaccination sites he said.
During his contribution, MP For Cumuto/Manzanilla, Dr Rai Ragbir, said the budget presentation offered no hope for the people.
“We are in a mess in TT. I look at this budget presented by the Minister of Finance, and all I can say is, 'Woe unto me Lord and woe unto the people of TT.'
"This nation has faced many challenges, one is covid19 and the other is the PNM.”
He said healthcare workers are under mental stress from dealing with covid19 and called on the Government to offer some incentive for those workers.
With a budgetary allocation of $6.395 billion, Ragbir called on the Health Ministry to show how the money will be spent in, not only addressing covid19 but the entire healthcare sector.
He claimed there was counterfeit medication worldwide because of a pharmaceutical shortage. He said TT was not exempt from receiving said counterfeit drugs. He questioned whether the Food and Drug Division was testing drugs coming into the country. He said testing was not what it should be.
Debate continues on Saturday at 10 am.