New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday chaired a meeting to review steps taken to boost oxygen availability in the country in view of surge in Covid-19 cases and 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.
It was decided in the meeting to grant full exemption from basic customs duty and health cess on import of 16 items related to oxygen and oxygen-related equipment for three months with immediate effect. It was also decided that basic customs duty on import of COVID-19 vaccines be also exempted with immediate effect for three months.
The Prime Minister was briefed that basic customs duty was exempted on Remdesivir and its API recently and it was suggested that import of equipments related to providing oxygen to patients needs to be expedited.
The items granted full exemption from basic customs duty are – 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 canister, 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 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 and non-invasive ventilation nasal masks for ICU ventilators.
A Finance Ministry release said that the decision will augment production and availability of oxygen and oxygen-related equipment and meet the rising demand. It will boost availability of these items as well as make them cheaper.
The Prime Minister stressed that all ministries and departments need to work in synergy to increase availability of oxygen and medical supplies.
The Prime Minister directed the Revenue Department to ensure seamless and quick custom clearance of such equipment. Accordingly, the Department of Revenue has nominated Gaurav Masaldan, Joint Secretary, Customs, as the nodal officer for issues related to customs clearance for oxygen-related items.
The release said that the Centre has taken a lot of measures in the last few days to improve supply of oxygen and medical supplies. IAF planes are bringing in cryogenic oxygen tanks from Singapore. IAF is also transporting oxygen tanks in the country to reduce travel time. In another major decision taken yesterday, free food grains will be given 80 crore Indians for May and June.
Finance Minister, Commerce and Industry Minister, Health Minister, Principal Secretary to the PM, Member NITI Aayog, AIIMS Delhi Director Dr Randeep Guleria and secretaries of the department of Revenue, Health and DPIIT and other officials participated in the meeting.