KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 — Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz announced today an additional allocation of RM200 million to help the Ministry of Health (MOH) treat and fight Covid-19, including buying of equipment.
The additional sum would make the total Covid-19 allocation for MOH this year to RM1 billion.
“The Ministry of Finance will give priority to public health needs and ensure sufficient resources in the effort to tackle the rise in Covid-19 cases,” Tengku Zafrul told a press conference held shortly after the government announced tighter movement curbs.
“The government is adopting the ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of nation’ approach in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.
The additional allocation is expected to help the MOH buy the necessary equipment, including adding intensive care units and normal ward beds.
Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah revealed earlier today that ICUs in public hospitals have crossed maximum capacity, with some even recording 110 per cent, and appealed to members of the public to play their part in helping break the Covid-19 circuit.
Tengku Zafrul pledged to monitor the situation closely, He said the MOF could disburse more funds on top of the RM1 billion allocation if necessary.
“Despite the new allocation, the MOF will continue to monitor the situation and engage with the MOH and other relevant ministries on whether or not they would need extra resources,” he said.
The government said it has pumped a total of RM65 billion into a Covid-19 response fund with nearly RM40 billion already spent last year. Much of it had gone into efforts to save jobs and subsidising daily expenses.
Tengku Zafrul said the wage subsidies programme will continue although for how long remains unclear.
The government had allocated RM4 billion for the subsidies in 2020 but only RM1.2 billion have been spent up until April this year, which could suggest companies are reluctant to apply because it’s cheaper to lay workers off.
“These programmes will continue for as long as needed but we’ll have to continue monitoring the crisis,” he said.
From the total Covid-19 fund, RM10 billion from this year’s RM27 billion allocation has been utilised, leaving the government with RM17 billion left to spend.
Tengku Zafrul said May will see the roll out of some of these funds, such as for the cash aid transfer for low-income households under the second phase of the Prihatin Peoples’ Aid and the third Prihatin Special Grants for small and micro enterprises.
The government has maintained an upward growth forecast for 2021 on the back of its optimism over its vaccination programme, even as independent analysts believe a third lockdown could weigh down on recovery.
The MOF has injected RM5 billion from the Covid-19 coffer into its vaccine rollout programme although it has come under criticism for being too slow.
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