Acceding to the request of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, the Government of India has given in-principle approval for setting up a National Institute of Virology centre for the north zone in Punjab.
At present, the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune is the only institution in the country capable of providing a well-coordinated medical and public health response to such an emergency.
The Chief Minister, who had proposed the Centre some weeks back in the light of the Covid pandemic, welcomed the approval, saying the Centre would prove to be a milestone to boost research in the field of virology, make India future ready to predict and detect viruses at the earliest so that necessary preventive steps can be taken. Captain Amarinder further said that this Centre would also go a long way in addressing the requirements of the northern region including the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, UP and UTs of Chandigarh and J&K.
A spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s office said that the Centre’s letter of in-principle approval had been received by State Chief Secretary from Secretary to Government of India, Department of Health Research of Ministry of India-cum-Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Prof. (Dr.) Balram Bhargava. He has requested the State Government to identify about 25 acres of land on long lease so as to enable ICMR to set up this prestigious centre at the earliest.
Notably, Captain Amarinder had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 10 requesting him to direct the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to set up the proposed centre, which would focus on addressing regional, national and global needs in virology, diagnostic, research and therapeutic evaluations to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chief Minister had proposed a specialised Centre in Medicity, New Chandigarh, which would be well placed to serve the interests of the North-Western region given Chandigarh’s international air connectivity. He also pointed out that the centre could easily be incubated in PGIMER, which is located only 7-8 kilometers from the proposed Medicity.
An approximate amount of Rs. 400 crore would be required for the Centre with BSL-3 facility and an additional Rs. 150 crore would be needed for the BSL-4 facility excluding the land, which would be provided by the Government of Punjab.
Pointing to the unprecedented crisis faced by the country amid Covid-19, the Chief Minister hoped that this Centre would be instrumental in providing diagnostic support, undertake research in basic virology, build capacity in the field of virology to promote universal health coverage, develop rapid and affordable quality diagnostic assays for viral diseases, besides introduction of teaching courses for the M. Sc Medical Virology and DM, Virology.