AIIB approves $500 mn loan for India to combat COVID-19

New Delhi (NVI): India today signed a USD 500 million “COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project” with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) today to take forward its efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen its public health preparedness.

“This is the first-ever health sector support from the Bank to India,” the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.

The agreement was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Rajat Misra, Director General, AIIB.

The funds provided will support all the states and Union Territories across the country and address the needs of infected people, population at-risk, medical and emergency personnel and service providers, medical and testing facilities, and national and animal health agencies.

Khare said that AIIB’s timely assistance will help the government to strengthen the national health systems. 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 AIIB.

The funds will enable to enhance disease detection capacities by scaling up procurement of PPE, oxygen delivery systems, and medicines, build resilient health systems to provide core public health, prevention, and patient management functions to manage COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks.

In addition to this, it will also support the research works on COVID-19 by Indian and other global institutions working in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), address significant negative externalities expected in the event of a widespread COVID-19 outbreak and strengthen public structures for the coordination and management of the project.

DJ Pandian, AIIB vice-president (Investment Operations), said, “Building a resilient health system that can effectively treat COVID-19 patients and prevent its spread is the immediate priority. This funding will address this need and strengthen India’s capacity to effectively manage future disease outbreaks.”

Today, about 75 per cent of new infectious diseases begin with human-to-animal contact, including HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and SARS, the Finance Ministry said. 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 added.

The project is being financed by the World Bank and AIIB in the amount of $1.5 billion, of which $1.0 billion will be provided by World Bank and $500 million will be provided by AIIB, the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

The project will be implemented 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.