Workers refill cylinders with medical oxygen for supply to hospital for Covid-19 patients, amid surge in coronavirus cases across the country. (File photo)
NEW DELHI: The government on Saturday decided to waive off basic customs duty and health cess on import of oxygen and oxygen related equipment for three months as the authorities stepped up measures to augment supplies to fight the raging second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was also decided to exempt basic customs duty on import of Covid vaccines with immediate effect for three months, a move which is expected to help step up supplies of a wide variety of vaccines in the country and help accelerate the vaccination drive.
The decisions were taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the steps taken to boost oxygen availability in the country.
The PM emphasized 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.
Several states are reporting a shortage of oxygen while hospitals are scrambling to procure supplies in the face of a sharp increase in demand due to the pandemic which has taken a heavy toll.
Modi stressed that all ministries and departments need to work in synergy to increase availability of oxygen and medical supplies, according to an official statement.
These measures are expected to boost availability of these items as well as make them cheaper. The PM directed the revenue department to ensure seamless and quick custom clearance of such equipment.
The department has nominated Gaurav Masaldan, joint secretary, Customs, as the nodal officer for issues related to customs clearance of oxygen and oxygen.
The Centre has taken a raft of measures in the last few days to improve the supply of oxygen and medicines and equipment. India Air Force (IAF) planes are flying in cryogenic oxygen tanks from Singapore.
The IAF is also transporting oxygen tanks in the country to cut transportation time. The government has also decided to offer free food grains to 80 crore Indians for two months in May and June.
The list of products includes 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 cannister, oxygen filling systems, oxygen storage tanks, oxygen cylinders including cryogenic cylinders and tanks, oxygen generators, ISO containers for shipping oxygen, cryogenic road transport tanks for oxygen.
Parts 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 and non-invasive ventilation nasal masks for ICU ventilators are also on the list of exempted items.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, health minister Harsh Vardhan, principal secretary to the PM, member NITI Aayog, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria and secretaries of the department of revenue, health and DPIIT and other officials participated in the meeting.