ZB

Covid fund won't stretch to fourth jab - Grant Robertson

Author
Thomas Coughlan, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 21 Jan 2022, 1:14pm
(Photo / File)
(Photo / File)

Covid fund won't stretch to fourth jab - Grant Robertson

Author
Thomas Coughlan, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 21 Jan 2022, 1:14pm

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has said there's enough money in the Covid Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF) for the costs of the Omicron outbreak - including the purchasing of rapid antigen tests - but warned more money might be needed if the country required a fourth round of vaccinations. 

National's Simon Bridges said the Government should have firm plans in place to fund further rounds of vaccination if needed, and criticised the level of spending. 

Speaking at Labour's caucus retreat in New Plymouth, Robertson said the Covid fund would cover the purchasing of rapid tests. 

"In terms of specific expenditure, obviously when we're trying to order tens of millions of rapid antigen tests, that's got a specific cost associated with it, but we have already thought about some of that within the Covid Recovery Fund so that's within there," he said. 

However, he warned that there might not be money left in the fund to cover the cost of a fourth round of vaccination, if an additional booster shot was required. 

"Vaccine purchasing - obviously that's in a reasonable shape in terms of the allocated money for that - if we were to look at a fourth dose and so forth then we would need to find more money for that," Robertson said. 

He added that the Government would find the money for an additional round of vaccinations, if they were required. 

"We'd always said if it is necessary to do the things we need to do, we'll find the money to do that." 

The fund was created in 2020 with $62 billion allocated to it. It was topped up in September with an additional $7b. 

As of December's HYEFU forecasts $64.8b had been allocated, leaving $4.3b left to allocate. 

Robertson said the fund now stood at "about $4b" although he cautioned that "there has been a bit more expenditure on tests and vaccines since then". 

"The fund has a bit of money remaining in it and can handle where we are at the moment." 

Bridges said the Government should have a clearer means to fund a fourth round of vaccination. 

"It's very surprising that Grant Robertson doesn't already have firm funding plans in place for vaccines that may be required. 
 
"It's not as if he hasn't been splashing cash around left, right and centre elsewhere, and he's already given himself an eye-watering $6 billion in new money to play with in Budget 2022 on top of what was a huge Budget spend-up in 2021." 

Bridges urged Robertson to "prioritise funding for vaccines, given the impact this is having on New Zealanders and the economy, while being more careful more generally in his spending in order to ease the inflationary pressures all Kiwis are going to continue to experience this year".