Coronavirus pandemic: Government announces $500m for health services

The Government has announced a massive $500 million boost to public health services to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Approximately $235 million of the cash will be available immediately to aid hospitals, GPs and other services.

Another $205 million will be reserved to ensure New Zealand has enough medicine and personal protective equipment, such as face masks, to last through the outbreak.

A further $50 million will be kept to ensure primary care facilities and other services like pharmacies, ambulances and rest homes can withstand the pandemic.

"Staff in our public health units are our first line of defence against infectious diseases, but they don't have the resources they need," said health minister David Clark on Tuesday.

"We're putting more than $40 million immediately into public health with a strong emphasis on contact tracing."

The boost nearly doubles the current yearly spend for public health services.

Primary care services like GPs, nurses, iwi and Pacific Health providers will receive $50 million in emergency funding

A further $20 million will be given to GPs to ensure they can use video conferencing to assess patients and minimise face-to-face interaction with people who may be infected.

The boost has been celebrated by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP). 

"One of the great concerns with COVID-19 is ensuring a sustainable frontline of general practitioners; we just can't afford to have health workforces and businesses falling over," said RNZCGP president Dr Samantha Murton.

"I look forward to seeing the detail of these measurements but am optimistic that what I've heard today will support general practices in New Zealand in unprecedented times."

"We know we will see more cases of COVID-19 arrive here. So we must prepare and plan for that reality," said Clark.

Where is the money going?

  • $40 million to doubling public health units

  • $32 million for intensive care capacity and hospital equipment

  • $50 million for GPs and primary care with $20 million to improve video conferencing

  • $20 million for Healthline

  • $10 million for a public health campaign via all media channels

  • $255 million for future requirements