India's battle with COVID-19 with each passing day is worseining due to the lack of oxygen supply in many parts of the country. Owing to such a crisis situation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level virtual meeting to review steps taken to boost oxygen availability in the country. During the meeting PM Modi emphasised that there was an immediate need to boost the supply of medical-grade oxygen as well as equipment required for patient care both at home and in hospitals.
It was suggested that import of equipments related to providing oxygen to patients needs to be expedited. In order to increase their production and availability and to meet the rising demand, during the meeting it was decided to grant full exemption from Basic Customs Duty and health cess on import of the following items related to Oxygen and Oxygen related equipment for a period of three months with immediate effect:
Medical grade Oxygen
Oxygen concentrator along with flow meter, regulator, connectors and tubing
Vacuum Pressure Swing Absorption (VPSA) and Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) oxygen plants, Cryogenic Oxygen Air Separation Units (ASUs) producing liquid/ gaseous oxygen
Oxygen Filling Systems
Oxygen Storage tanks, Oxygen cylinders including cryogenic cylinders and tanks
ISO Containers for Shipping Oxygen
Cryogenic Road transport tanks for Oxygen
Parts of the above to be used for the manufacture of equipment for production, transportation, distribution or storage of Oxygen
Any other device from which Oxygen can be generated
Ventilators (capable of functioning as high-flow devices) with nasal canula; Compressors including all accessories and tubing; humidifiers and Viral filters
High flow nasal canula device with all attachments
Helmets for use with non-invasive ventilation
Non-invasive ventilation oronasal masks for ICU ventilators
Non-invasive ventilation nasal masks for ICU ventilators
It was also decided that Basic Customs Duty on import of Covid vaccines be also exempted with immediate effect for a period of 3 months which would boost availability of these items as well as make them cheaper. Modi directed the Revenue Department to ensure seamless and quick custom clearance of such equipment.
In a bid to boost the oxygen supply, the PM stressed that all ministries and departments need to work in synergy to increase availability of oxygen and medical supplies. The officials present in the meeting briefed the PM that basic customs duty was exempted on Remdesivir and its API recently.
Gaurav Masaldan, Joint Secretary, Customs, was nominated as the nodal officer for issues related to customs clearance for the above-mentioned items.
Meanwhile, the Centre has taken a lot of measures in the last few days to improve supply of oxygen and medical supplies. India Air Force planes are bringing in cryogenic oxygen tanks from Singapore and its is also transporting oxygen tanks in the country to reduce travel times.