April 25, 2021 3:26:47 am
Scrambling to tackle the oxygen crisis that has severely hampered efforts to combat the second Covid wave, the Centre Saturday announced that imports of medical-grade oxygen and a set of key related equipment will be exempted from basic customs duty and health cess for three months “with immediate effect”.
The decision was announced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting to review steps taken to boost oxygen availability. The Centre also held a meeting with all states and directed them to review existing infrastructure in light of the daily caseload, fatality and requirement for hospitalisation.
“PM was briefed that basic customs duty was exempted on Remdesivir and its API recently. It was suggested that import of equipment related to providing oxygen to patients needs to be expedited,” the PMO said in a statement.
The exemptions cover oxygen-linked equipment: cryogenic road transport tanks; concentrator along with flow meter, regulator, connectors and tubing; storage tanks; cylinders including cryogenic cylinders and tanks; non-invasive ventilation nasal masks for ICU ventilators; filling systems; Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) plants; and any other device from which oxygen can be generated.
The decision came hours after IAF planes began airlifting cryogenic oxygen tanks from Singapore.
In the Centre’s meeting chaired by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, the states were advised to implement a multi-pronged plan for augmentation of beds:
- Identify additional dedicated Covid hospitals and prepare field facilities either through DRDO and CSIR, or other public and private agencies.
- Set up centralised call centre-based service for bed allocation.
- Strengthen ambulance service with additional deployment for districts with deficit infrastructure.
- Step up the creation of in-house oxygen plants in large hospitals.
The Centre also directed states to maintain a real-time record for available beds and make the information public. It asked states to provide telemedicine facilities for patients isolated at home, and ensure availability of intensive care under trained doctors.
The Centre also provided details of beds under the control of its departments. Specifically, the states were given details of the availability of 3,816 coaches across 16 zones of the Railways for mild cases.
They were directed to coordinate with National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) for repurposing healthcare facilities, spread across 18 regional offices, for creation of facilities.
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