A $1 billion COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project has been approved and fast-tracked to India by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors to help the country, detect, prevent and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to media reports, this is the largest ever health sector support given to India from the 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,” a World Bank statement said on Friday.

Under the project, the statement said that procurement of testing kits, setting up of new isolation wards — including turning hospital beds into intensive care unit beds, purchase of necessary life-saving items like PPE, ventilators and medicine will be scaled up. After it first surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan, four months ago, the novel coronavirus has claimed more than 51,000 lives and has affected one million people worldwide. So far, 208,00 people have reportedly recovered from this disease which has battered economies worldwide and created a public health emergency around the globe.

According to the Deccan Herald, fewer than 20 countries remain in the world that are free of the infection.