Health workers during a mock drill at the Naga Hospital Authority Kohima  Credit: File Image

Kohima: In the battle against COVID-19, Nagaland has Rs 127.11 crore. Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio informed that out of this, Rs. 24.75 crore was received from the Central Government, Rs 2.95 crore from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, while Rs 99.42 crore spent from the State’s resources.

The expenditure, includes, financial assistance to the stranded persons, travel costs of returnees, repairing, furnishing and maintaining quarantine centres, providing BSL labs, Truenat testing machines and other medical supplies. The chief minister shared this during a press conference on Monday.

“But the process is far from being over. The fight against the pandemic has just started, and with rising instances of positive cases, we will have to invest more in health infrastructure and related activities to ensure that the spread of this pandemic is contained to the quarantine and isolation facilities,” Rio said.

Currently, there are no cases of community transmission in the state. All positive cases of COVID-19 are related to stranded persons who have returned to from outside the state. All returnees are mandated to undergo 14 days of institutional quarantine.

Owing to the acute shortage of health care specialists, the government has decided to recruit 53 doctors and 143 Nurses. The salary expenditure for which is estimated at Rs 11.07 crore annually.

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The State Government has also extended assistance of Rs 2000 to 19,046 construction workers from a cess fund to protect them from the impact of economic disruption due to COVID-19. The money was directly transferred to their bank accounts. The total amount of assistance extended amounts to Rs 3.80 crore.

The chief minister said that the government is giving full assistance to citizens returning from outside. The state machinery has been fully engaged since April, with all expenses being borne by the government, along with the support from churches and the civil society.

He further said that the State Government everything possible for its citizens in the current circumstances. “We hope all citizens will be able to look at things from a more positive point of view and fight the pandemic together,” says Rio.

Revenue generation from COVID-19 Cess on petroleum products

As reported earlier, the state government has levied cess on High-Speed Diesel and Motor Spirit (Petrol), which came to effect on the midnight of April 28 at the rate of Rs 5 per litre for diesel and Rs 6 per litre for petrol and other motor spirits. The chief minister said that in April, a total of Rs 0.24 crore was collected and it increased to Rs 3.36 crore in May.

Initially, the finance department said that the COVID-19 cess is expected to generate additional revenue of Rs 55.58 crore annually. However, the estimated collection for the financial year 2020-21 now stands at Rs 37.25 crore.

The chief minister said that the government has considered the decision to levy COVID-19 cess following a preliminary assessment of the levels of expenditure that would have to be incurred to fight the pandemic, especially considering the need to build up health infrastructure, including the procurement of machinery and equipment, protective gears and medicines.

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Amid appeals from several civil societies to rollback the COVID-19 cess, Rio said, “The collections so far are a fraction of what we have already spent without budgetary support.” He further added that in the coming months, the state would continue to see significant expenditure in fighting COVID-19. The future expenses pertain to, the transportation of returnees, food expenses, purchase of medicines and medical equipment, cost of completion of the BSL labs and laboratory consignments, besides the investments that will be made in the district hospitals to facilitate treatments.

“There are also other frontline agencies, the administration, police, fire services which are incurring heavy expenses in their daily activities connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rio said.”

“We have to take measures to tap all possible resources so that we do not lace a financial collapse,” he said. While a lot of improvements have been made across the district in terms of medical infrastructure and preparedness, he said that video conferences are held regularly held with the DCs, SPs and CMOs to keep in address issues faced by those working on the ground.

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