Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 15 (PTI) Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday said it was the robust public health care system in Kerala that helped the state prevent Nipah and contain the COVID-19 pandemic to an extent.

Speaking after inauguratingthe operations of the first phase of the International Institute of Advanced Virology at the Life Science Park at Thonakkal here through video conference, he said it will become an institution of world-class standards in the field of health research.

"We were able to prevent Nipah and contain Covid to an extent in Kerala because the state has a robust public health system.

We have been able to raise the entire public health system in Kerala to world-class standards through the Aradram Mission (state project in the health sector)," the chief minister said.

Vijayan said the state needs institutions like the Institute of Advanced Virology to effectively prevent the health problems and new epidemics that Kerala face, including lifestyle diseases.

"We started the institute to predict and prevent such diseases.The institute will conduct research on various viruses, viral infections and review its clinical aspects," he said.

He also mentioned that the state had decided to set up a virology research centre in 2017, based on the suggestions of world-renowned scientists, Prof M V Pillai and Dr Saragndharan.

"When the Nipah virus struck in 2018, we were able to prevent its spread through expert interventions in the health sector. The State Science, Technology and Environment Council was tasked with establishing the Institute of Virology.

The scientists connected us to the World Virology Network collaborating with Dr Robert Gallo and Dr William Hall," Vijayan said.

The first phase of the building was inaugurated in February 2019.

Vijayan said there are two major types of study facilities available in the state including diagnostic and research facilities.

"The cooperation of ICMR, RGCB, NIST and IISER, all leading institutions in our country in this field, was ensured.Renowned virologist, Dr Akhil Banerjee was appointed as the Head of the Institute," the chief minister said.

The government has decided to upgrade the institute, which is currently under the Department of Science and Technology, to an autonomous institution once it becomes fully operational.

Eight scientific divisions are envisioned here based on various virology research topics.

Clinical virology and viral diagnostics, which are related to the diagnostic system, are the first two categories.

A total of 80,000 square feet of state-of-the-art facilities will be set up for the institute.