Funding the COVID-19 response

−Testing capacity, socio-economic response among priorities
−Int’l support and consideration being solicited

Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony, Minister of Health

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, on Monday said the funding which has been set aside for the country’s COVID-19 response covers essential areas which need urgent intervention from the government.

Recently, His Excellency, Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana had announced a $4.5Billion allocation to assist in this regard.

Also, funds are being mobilised from the World Bank, OPEC Fund for International Development, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, totalling a sum of US$60Million. A US$2Million grant has also been received from the government of India.

Firstly, the Health Minister indicated that some of the money will be allocated for the procurement of items to be utilised in the Infectious Diseases Hospital, which will serve as an isolation facility.

The Ministry is looking at initially installing at least 55 beds, so those persons who have tested positive and are exhibiting mild symptoms can be housed and treated there

Important to note also is that testing capacity will be significantly boosted with the purchase of automated Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines. This will minimise the time it takes to process test samples from as much as nine hours to as little as two hours.

“We talked about getting an automated PCR machine so some of that funds we are utilising it right now to buy one of those machines. As you, might know, these machines are like hot cakes so we have to be very quick in terms of putting in our order, getting the money out to them so that we can get this machine in a timely way,”

Minister Anthony said.

Meanwhile, the government is directing efforts towards a socio-economic response where aid will be provided to vulnerable populations and support to small businesses.

Since coming to office as Health Minister, Dr. Anthony has met with several donor agencies, international representatives and local business owners to effectively tailor the COVID-19 response to being all-inclusive.

In this regard, the Ministry will be looking to the Civil Defense Commission to identify those vulnerable population, ensuring the Ministry has a more targeted approach. Other government Ministries will also play their respective roles in ensuring the process rolls out smoothly

The Health Minister explained that

“We have had engagements with the Inter-American Development Bank and we are looking at a number of financing mechanisms so in the next couple of weeks we are expected to have some financing from the IDB. We have also engaged the World Bank because it is the facility that deals with fast-tracking of resources for COVID-19. So, that will be another source where we will be getting financing from.”

Meanwhile, pre-existing loans for these and other banks are being reprogrammed to respond to COVID-19 while taking into consideration, fulfilling the initial purpose of the funds.

The Minister specified that the main targets will be,

“communities, especially those in the hinterland, that had a very difficult time especially when those communities have been in steady lockdown, we will now able to bring some form of relief to them.”