Rio inaugurates State’s first BSL-3 lab

Rio inaugurates State’s first BSL-3 lab
Neiphiu Rio and others inside the BSL-3 at NHAK, Thursday.
Correspondent KOHIMA, MAY 21 (NPN) | Publish Date: 5/21/2020 12:17:44 PM IST

Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio inaugurated the much-awaited State Referral Bio Safety Level-3 (BSL-3) laboratory at Naga Hospital Authority Kohima(NHAK) here on Thursday.

The BSL-3 lab at NHAK was set up at a cost of Rs 6.54 crore while another BSL-2 lab coming up at Dimapur is projected to cost Rs 2.99 crore.

Speaking on the occasion, Rio said the wishes of the Naga people had finally come true with the setting up of the laboratory and gave thanks to God including all those involved in the project. 

He pointed out that COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than 51 lakh people around the world, with India alone having 1,12,000 positive cases and registering 3,434 deaths and that the numbers kept increasing every second.

Rio also expressed gratitude to Assam and Manipur for having assisted Nagaland in testing samples during the ongoing crisis.

He also informed that 1,672 citizens of Nagaland, stranded in different parts of the country due to the lockdown, have arrived back and were in quarantine centres. He said that around 1,400 more were on the way, while thousands more were expected to arrive once flight and train services were opened.

Rio also mentioned that 18,622 people had so far registered at the portal to express their desire to return home. He reminded that all of them would have to abide by the government directive of staying at quarantine centres in case any of them was tested positive for COVID-19 so as to contain its spread. 

He also appealed to citizens not to stigmatise those tested positive for COVID-19 but instead to lend their support.

Rio reiterated that Nagaland was able to fight the pandemic in a better way because of the unity shown by the Naga people against the virus.

He appealed to the citizens for their continued support and participation against the virus so that Nagaland remained under Green Zone and free from COVID-19. 

Also speaking on the occasion, minister health & family welfare (H&FW) S. Pangnyu Phom, informed that four dedicated research scientists had volunteered to join the fight against the pandemic and so have been hired by the department.

He said since COVID-19 was highly contagious in nature, it was important that Nagaland had a highly specialised facility for detection which required a special laboratory for testing samples as there was still no vaccine against COVID-19.

He thanked the biotechnology department under the Union Ministry of Science & Technology for providing the space to house the State Referral BSL-3 lab. He said work on the laboratory began in April, starting with lab design and layout plan. 

He also thanked Nagaland governor RN Ravi, for his keen interest in setting up of the laboratory, his logistical support by following it up with the government of India and personally monitoring the progress of works and also the chief minister for his support. 

Though work on such a lab typically required six months or more, especially in a State like Nagaland, Pangnyu however said the project materialised in about a month’s time, complete with world-class equipment and containment building. 

He congratulated H&FW department officials, officer-in-charge of State Referral BSL-3 and the lab team for their tireless efforts and working day and night to make it possible. 

With the commissioning of the BSL-3 lab, Phom said the State was now ready to test COVID-19 samples and claimed that the lab at NHAK had the best facility in the entire region.

Earlier, in his introductory note, H&FW secretary Kesonyu Yhome, who also headed the committee for BSL-3 lab, explained that COVID-19 samples could not be tested at any normal laboratory since the virus was highly contagious and hence, BSL-3 laboratory was recommended. He said 126 such laboratories across India had so far received approval for testing COVID-19 samples. 

Sensing the urgency to have a COVID-19 testing facility in Nagaland, Yhome said the State government had approved to set up BSL-3 and BSL-2 labs at Kohima and Dimapur respectively. 

Accordingly, work for setting up the lab at Kohima started on April 16 and took about 25 days for its completion, although delayed by a few days due to supply chain issues during the lockdown and unfavourable weather conditions.

Yhome also informed that on the basis of validation of Documentation and Quality Check Run Tests, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on May 14 approved initiation of clinical specimens for COVID. 

After unveiling of the bio-safety sample collection booth donated by Nagaland Institute of Science & Technology, Social activist and Padma Shree Neidonuo Angami remarked that as the sample collection booth was portable, it could be taken to different locations for sample collection like in quarantine centres to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

H&FW principal director Dr Vizolie Z Suokhrie delivered the welcome address, while State chaplain Rev TW Yamyap Konyak pronounced the dedicatory prayer.

Host of legislators, senior State government officials, including medical staff, and others attended the inaugural function.

BSL-3 to begin tests from today
With two machines and each having a capacity to handle 35 samples in a day, the BSL-3 laboratory will begin testing COVID-19 samples from Friday.
Talking to Nagaland  Post, H&FW secretary Kesonyu Yhome said the specialised lab, besides COVID-19, could be used for varied purposes in future like testing samples for new unidentified infections whenever there were any such outbreaks. The lab would also be able to characterise a lot of diseases, which would help medical professionals to better understand and address them.
Pointing out that there were research works going on for cancer and genetic linkages, Yhome remarked that the BSL-3 lab could become a focal hub for the Northeast in this regard. 
He asserted that the lab would also help encourage Nagas with scientific temperament to enter into molecular biology, thereby creating a pool of qualified human resource, besides providing employment.

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