The central government has given in-principle approval for setting up a National Institute of Virology (NIV) Centre for the north zone in Punjab, a spokesperson of the Chief Minister's Office said on Monday.
Currently, the NIV in Pune is the only institution in the country capable of providing well-coordinated medical and public health responses during emergencies.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who had made a proposal to the central government in regard to the NIV Centre some weeks back in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, welcomed the approval.
The NIV Centre would prove to be a milestone to boost research in the field of virology and make India future ready to predict and detect viruses at the earliest so that necessary preventive steps can be taken, he said.
Mr Singh said that this centre would also go a long way in addressing the requirements of the northern region, including states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Union Territories of Chandigarh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The spokesperson said that the Centre's letter of in-principle approval had been received by the Punjab Chief Secretary from the Secretary to the government of India's Department of Health Research and Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Prof Balram Bhargava.
He has requested the state government to identify about 25 acres of land on long lease so as to enable the ICMR to set up this prestigious centre at the earliest.
Mr Singh 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.
Approximately Rs 400 crore would be required for the centre with BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Lab) 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.
The chief minister hoped that this centre would be instrumental in providing diagnostic support, undertake research in basic virology and build capacity in the field of virology to promote universal health coverage.