Covid-19 war chest being beefed up

The move will increase the size of Malaysia's Covid-19 fund to RM65 billion (S$21 billion). PHOTO: EPA

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia plans to boost its Covid-19 war chest by raising its ceiling by as much as RM20 billion to RM65 billion (S$21.2 billion), Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz said yesterday.

The fund will be used to deal with the pandemic, including to finance a stimulus package, provide aid to people, meet front-line workers' needs and procure vaccines.

Malaysia yesterday reported 1,755 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily rise since the pandemic was tracked in Malaysia in January.

"The war is not over until and unless an affordable and accessible vaccine is available," Datuk Seri Zafrul said in his Budget 2021 speech. "The government is committed to obtaining Covid-19 vaccines through its participation in the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access programme, or Covax," he said.

Malaysia's Covid-19 vaccination needs are estimated to cost more than RM3 billion.

To aid those directly fighting the pandemic, some 100,000 medical front-liners from the Health Ministry will receive a one-off payment of RM500, on top of a monthly allowance of RM600 at present.

A total of RM475 million will be allocated for the purchase of reagent supplies, test kits and consumables for the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, some RM318 million will be set aside for personal protection equipment (PPE) and hand sanitisers for front-liners, while RM150 million will be allocated to the National Disaster Management Agency.

The government will boost aid to over 400,000 households living below the poverty line. Households with a monthly income of less than RM2,500 will get a one-off payment of RM1,200 to RM1,800, and those with a monthly income of RM2,501 to RM4,000 will receive RM800 to RM1,200.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2020, with the headline Covid-19 war chest being beefed up. Subscribe