KATHMANDU, Nov 12: In what is a shocking revelation, the government has said that more than Rs 20 billion has already been spent to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Although the government has been seen sluggish in its COVID-19 response, the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) said that almost Rs 7 billion was already spent in COVID-19 response in the last four months. This means, the government has already spent Rs 20.18 billion to battle the pandemic in the last eight months.
The revelation seems shocking as the government has been sluggish in combating the pandemic in the last few months. “How can billions of rupees be spent in combating the pandemic when the government has not conducted testing and treatment for free? The general public had to pay to stay in isolation centers. The government should make public the details of the spending,” said an official at the MoHP, who is not allowed to speak against the government.
Although billions of rupees have been spent, the government has failed to control the spread of the pandemic as the number COVID-19 deaths and infections has been increasing at an alarming rate every day.
According to the government, a total of Rs 3.25 billion has been spent for high-dependency units in the current fiscal year. Although the government has reduced the ambit of testing, it has claimed that a total of Rs 1.12 billion has been spent for COVID-19 testing in the current fiscal year.
During a regular press briefing, Dr Jageshwar Gautam, spokesperson for the ministry, said that Rs 1.14 billion has been spent on contact tracing and risk mitigation of COVID-19. Gautam further added that the government spent Rs 1.29 billion on the purchase of ICU equipment, ventilators, and on upgrading COVID-19 hospitals across the country.
As of Thursday, the country has already recorded 202,309 cases, with 1,174 deaths linked with COVID-19.
Earlier in June, the government had made public the spending details, revealing Rs 10 billion had already been spent to combat COVID-19. As the spending was in billions, and there was no sign of the infection coming under control, several protest programs were launched demanding the government be transparent and responsible in battling the pandemic.
Later in August, the government said that Rs 13 billion had been spent in battling the pandemic.
This is the third time the government has made public the spending details. “The government doesn’t make public the detailed spending. Why is the government not transparent?” asked Pukar Bam, an “Enough is Enough” campaigner. The campaign had launched several protest programs demanding the government be transparent and responsible.
“The pandemic is already out of control. The infection has already reached the nooks and corners of the country. Where has the money been spent then?” questioned Bam.
“The government doesn’t carry out tests. It doesn’t feed the poor people. The infection is increasing at an alarming rate. So it is possible to spend billions of rupees?” he questioned, adding that the youth-led “Enough is Enough” campaign is launching several protest programs after the Tihar festival demanding the government be transparent.