Updated: April 24, 2021 6:48:43 pm
In a bid to boost medical oxygen availability in the country amid a severe shortage across several states, including the national capital, the Central government on Saturday decided to waive basic customs duty and health cess on the import of oxygen and related equipment for a period of three months with immediate effect.
At a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a decision was also taken to exempt basic customs duty on the import of COVID vaccines with immediate effect for three months, a government statement said.
Further, the statement asserted that the Centre has taken a lot of measures in the last few days to accelerate supply of medical equipment and oxygen.
Prime Minister Modi, at the meeting, emphasised that there was an immediate need to augment the supply of medical-grade oxygen as well as equipment required for patient care both at home and in hospitals. He also stressed that all ministries and departments need to work in synergy to up the availability of oxygen and medical supplies.
PM Modi further directed the revenue department to ensure seamless and quick custom clearance of such equipment, the government statement said.
Modi was told that basic customs duty was exempted on Remdesivir and its API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) recently, and a suggestion was made that the import of equipment related to providing oxygen to patients needs to be expedited, the statement said, announcing the measures.
The items to benefit from the decision include medical grade oxygen, oxygen concentrator along with flow meter, regulator, connectors and tubing vacuum pressure swing Alabsorption (VPSA) and pressure swing absorption (PSA) oxygen plants, cryogenic oxygen air separation units (ASUs) producing liquid/ gaseous oxygen.
Oxygen cannister, oxygen filling systems, oxygen storage tanks, oxygen cylinders, including cryogenic cylinders and tanks besides any other device from which oxygen can be generated are among several other items under this category.
India currently has two Covid vaccines, both of which are produced domestically. Covaxin, the country’s first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine is manufactured by Bharat Biotech while Pune-based Serum Institute makes Covishield.
Further, Russia’s Sputnik V has been cleared for emergency use by the Drugs Controller General of India, the country’s drug regulator.
This is a major development for India, which is struggling to increase supply of vaccines in its immunisation programme amidst a powerful second surge of Covid-19 infections.
Meanwhile the government has announced that every person above the age of 18 years will be eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19 from May 1.
The significant announcement came earlier this week against the backdrop of a relentless surge in coronavirus cases. States have been given the authority to take a call to open vaccination to any category of people above the age of 18 — a shift from the current policy in which the central government decides on age-specific priority groups for vaccination.
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