New Delhi: The Government of India and the World Bank today signed a fast-track $1 billion India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project to help India prevent, detect, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen its public health preparedness. This is the largest ever health sector support from the Bank to India.
This new support will cover all states and Union Territories across India and address the needs of infected people, at-risk populations, medical and emergency personnel and service providers, medical and testing facilities, and national and animal health agencies.
The agreement was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India and Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.
“This fast-track project will help India rapidly ramp up its capacity for early disease detection, management of future outbreaks and strengthen the containment of the pandemic through better screening, contact-tracing and lab diagnostics,” said Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. “Responding to the urgency of the pandemic, this project was prepared in record time, underlying the efforts of the officials from the Finance and Health ministries and the World Bank”.
The project will immediately enable the Government of India (GOI) to scale-up efforts to limit human-to-human transmission, including reducing local transmission of cases and containing the epidemic from progressing further. In parallel, interventions to strengthen the health system will be rolled out to improve the country’s capacity to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic and be better prepared to respond to emerging disease outbreaks, including transmission between humans and animals.
Procurement of testing kits; setting up of new isolation wards — including turning hospital beds into intensive care unit beds; infection prevention and control; and purchase of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and medicines, particularly in district hospitals and designated infectious disease hospitals will be scaled up under the project.
“The World Bank is working in close partnership with the Government of India to provide urgent and flexible support to the country as it fights the spread of COVID-19,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director for India. “This operation is expected to enhance surveillance capacities, strengthen diagnostic systems, and expand the capacity of laboratories. But, COVID-19 is not only a health challenge. It has deep social and economic implications. In parallel, we are working with equal urgency with Government on social protection programs and economic measures that protect the livelihoods of people.”
The project will also enhance the resilience of India’s health system to provide core public health prevention and patient care to better manage COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks. It will help strengthen India’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Program, revamp infectious disease hospitals, district, civil, general and medical college hospitals, and build a network of high containment Biosafety Level 3 laboratories.
Today, about 75 percent of new infectious diseases begin with human-to-animal contact, including HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and SARS. The project will develop capacity and systems to detect existing and emerging zoonoses, support biomedical research on COVID-19 by Indian institutions, and upgrade viral research and diagnostic laboratories for testing and research.It will also help address potential significant negative externalities in the event of a widespread COVID-19 outbreak, including comprehensive health awareness and behavior change campaigns on hygiene practices, wearing masks, social distancing, and mental health and psychological services for vulnerable communities.
The project is financed from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in the amount of $1 billion, of which $350 million is provided through the World Bank Group’s COVID-19 Fast-Track Facility. It will be managed by the National Health Mission (NHM), the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.