Govt. spends Nu 2.26bn for Covid-19 containment measures from July-Dec 2021

Nu 771mn was received from the donors

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging on, the government spending on measures to counter the coronavirus pandemic from July to December 2021 has crossed Nu 2.26bn.

Further, the expenditure will keep on increasing for testing kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), among others, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Meanwhile, the government maintains that it is not going to compromise on the COVID-19 budget to meet the expenses even though no budget was earmarked for the COVID-19 response.

According to the report prepared by the Department of National Budget, for COVID-19 containment measures around Nu 577mn was spent on PPE, drugs, non-drugs and flu clinics, Nu 30.6mn on essential food and fuel, and more than Nu 490mn on quarantine facilities, including logistics and food.

Additionally, Nu 696mn was spent on improving road connectivity and construction of temporary shelters, and around Nu 472mn on general activities, which include non-structural COVID-19 related miscellaneous expenses.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the government has spent Nu 3.5bn on preventive measures for COVID-19 since March last year and that they are still compiling the budget records as of now.

The expenses mainly include procuring testing kits, PPE, reserving essential food items, expenditure for quarantine facilities, and improving road connectivity and construction of temporary shelters.

“It is the government’s responsibility to mobilize resources to ensure expenses are met and people’s wellbeing is taken care of during a crisis like this,” Lyonpo said, adding the government will ensure that COVID-19 expenses are met.

According to a health official, with the expenses increasing and the government bearing the entire cost for the COVID-19 tests, they also received suggestions that those who could afford to pay should do so for the test kits during mass testing.

“Each test, especially the RT-PCR, costs Nu 3,500, and the antigen test kit costs US$ 10-30,” said the official. “With this, the country will have three different tests for COVID-19.”

The government has so far spent more than Nu 577mn on testing kits for the novel coronavirus. There are three testing methods currently in use – Reverse transcription-polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) that uses a machine, Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) using test kits, and antigen test kit.

The RT-PCR test costs about Nu 3,000 while the unit cost for an RDT is about Nu 1,000.

The National Situational Update on COVID-19 on Friday (January 28, 2022) showed 205 new cases being detected in the last 24 hours and reported the fourth death in the country from a total of 4,225 confirmed COVID-19 cases since March 5, 2020 until January 28, 2022.

Meanwhile, a total budget of Nu 2.26bn was provided to various budgetary agencies for COVID-19 containment measure. Of the total, Nu 1.49bn was transferred from the budget provision kept under the General Reserve and Nu 771mn was directly incorporated under the respective budgetary bodies, which was received from the donors.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu