Govt extends import duty relief on Covid-related materials till September 30

The relief, which was set to expire at the end of July, has already been extended once. (File)

The Centre has extended the import duty relief on Covid-19 related materials till September 30, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) said on Monday. These supplies include medical oxygen and related equipment and vaccines.

In a notification announcing the duty-relief extension, the CBIC said the decision was made in public interest. The government has initially granted interim relief on import duty of Covid-related equipment in April. The relief, which was set to expire at the end of July, has already been extended once.

The government had originally granted basic customs duty relief on Covid-19 vaccine import. It had also allowed relief from basic customs duty and health cess on medical-grade oxygen imports.

The decision was taken to improve oxygen availability in India during the peak of the second Covid-19 wave when the shortage of liquid medical oxygen had led to long queues outside hospitals and vendors. Reports attributed hundreds of deaths across the country to a shortage of oxygen during this period. However, the government has always debunked these claims.

The Centre has since announced that it would set up new oxygen plants across India following the April-May peak. However, according to a government report, 425 of the 1,222 PSA oxygen plants it has sanctioned since October 2020 are operational.

Apart from medical oxygen, 11 items that receive duty relief are related to oxygen production and storage, its transportation, and administration. Nasal canula, ventilators, and helmets used with non-invasive ventilation also get a customs duty relief. The duty includes full basic customs duty and health cess exemption.

As on Monday, India has 376,000 active Covid-19 cases, while 438,000 people have succumbed to the deadly virus, the Union Health Ministry said in its daily update.

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