The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s funding of $3.6 million to India as assistance for support, prevention, preparedness, and response activities to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country might see a delay because of a ban on the department from India’s Ministry of Home Affairs.
Government sources have said that India will be able to accept the funds from CDC after receiving clearance from the ministry as it has been barred from sending funds directly to any government or private institute in India without the ministry’s approval.
In October 2019, the CDC came under fire for funding an unapproved Indian laboratory in Manipal without securing the necessary permissions for undertaking training for work on the Nipah virus, a pathogen that belongs to the Risk Group 4 (RG4) classification (potential bio-weapon).
CDC had trained personnel at the Manipal Centre for Virus Research (MCVR) for the diagnosis of Nipah virus disease (NIV) in spite of the fact that NIV is an easily transmittable pathogen whereas the MCVR lab is for work with agents associated with human diseases that pose a moderate health hazard, as per the memorandum titled “Unapproved, US-funded Indian Laboratory stored samples of Nipah Virus – a bioterrorism agent” written to CDC.
Since Nipah is a high risk pathogen with potential for being used as agent of bio-terrorism the samples were to be handled more carefully and tested only in a suitable lab, the ministry said.
The CDC funding, which was announced on 12 May, was also aimed at increasing laboratory capacity in India and developing Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) centres of excellence.