Tonga is still a COVID-19 free country, the former Health Minister has asked Cabinet to consider diverting funds from its FY 2020/21 budget allocation towards road improvements towards vaccination against novel coronavirus.
The former Health Minister, Dr. Saia Piukala said scientists around the world are working on potential treatments and vaccines for the deadly virus. He said should a cure for COVID-19 is found, demands from big countries for the vaccines will increase and there will be limited supplies.
Hence, Vava’u 14 MP, Dr. Piukala said it is essential for the government to have reserve funds to buy the vaccines. He said Tonga is yet to know when coronavirus could come and how it could last. But, believed Tonga’s readiness to brace against the second and third wave of coronavirus is important.
He suggested to Cabinet, they should save money to finance the COVID-19 vaccines.
“Now, it’s time to save money so by the time, a vaccine for COVID-19 is available, let’s just say by the end of the year, Tonga can afford to buy it,” said Dr. Saia Piukala.
He said Tonga should finance the COVID-19 vaccinations to avoid getting supplies in an untimely manner.
The Vava’u 14 MP asserted Tonga has benefitted from different immunization program.
He said no fatality was reported during the recent measles outbreak in Tonga and attributed this to the successful implementation of the immunization program.
Dr. Piukala also stressed the need for Cabinet to reserve money for use in time of unforeseen difficulty.
He was also concerned about the possible shortage of medical supplies due to limited flights to Tonga. He asked Parliament whether the 11 million from the 60million stimulus economic package and 12.9million in the budget allocation is sufficient to cater for Tonga’s medical supplies.
He cautioned Cabinet while the focus is on COVID-19, other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure should be prioritized as well. These ailments have also profound effects on people’s lives.
Dr. Piukala also urged the government to review its budget allocation to Health for Tonga’s readiness to brace against the second and third wave of coronavirus.
Meanwhile the Health Minister Hon. ‘Amelia Tu’ipulotu has confirmed Tonga’s preparedness for COVID-19 is at 85 percent. She said setting up of a room for the COVID-19 equipment is near completion. This includes the installation of fans, telephone and internet connection service and setting up of GeneXpert and PCR testing machines.
She also confirmed purchasing up to 20,000 testing kits have been made. The arrivals of these much-needed testing kits is for prevention of the COVID-19 spread. “This will also determine the time for Tonga to reopen its borders,” said the Hon. Minister
At the same, more personal protective equipment have arrived in Tonga. Other protective gears such as gowns and safety googles have also been purchased.
Meanwhile, plans are underway for stockpiling of personal protective equipment stockpile in New Zealand for the Pacific, Tonga included. Hon. Tu’ipulotu said ongoing negotiation has been made for delivering of these protective gears when coronavirus reached our shores.
The Hon. Health Minister also mentioned they have provided filters at Mu’a Health Centre to eliminate microbes or viruses from further spreading into the community. A ventilator machine has also been set up in preparation for the COVID-19.