Covid wave: Govt speeds up import approval for 17 medical equipment

Recently, the finance ministry waived off basic customs duty and health cess on imported oxygen and related equipment for three years.

The Centre on Thursday expedited the clearance process for import of nebulisers, oxygen concentrators, and 15 other life-saving medical devices.

This has been done to cater to the steep demand for such items amid the second wave of Covid in the country.

For the next three months, starting April 29, importers will have to make necessary declarations required under the legal metrology rules after customs clearance but before hitting the market.

The order will be applicable to other items, including oxygen cylinders, cryogenic cylinders, oxygen canisters and ventilators, among others.

Till now, importers had to do stamping, put price stickers — as laid down by the legal metrology rules — on imports before getting goods cleared from the customs.

Putting price stickers before retail sale is also a step towards checking profiteering.

“Therefore, considering the Covid pandemic, and to meet the demand of medical devices, in exercise of the powers of the Legal Metrology Rules, 2011, the central government hereby permits the importers of medical devices to import the following medical devices for three months from the date of this advisory, subject to the condition that the importers shall make all declaration required under these rules immediately…,” an official statement said.

It added that importers will have to inform officials in the legal metrology departments, immediately after shipments hit India.

Experts said considering a surge in demand for ventilators, oxygen and related items, many companies, in a first, have started importing these medical devices.

Such a step will allow speedy clearance of these goods.

“The government has allowed the flexibility of labelling the imported Covid-related essential goods post customs clearance but before sale.

“This is a welcome measure and should certainly help in expeditious clearance of these life-saving equipment,” said Abhishek Jain, tax partner, EY.

Recently, the finance ministry waived off basic customs duty and health cess on imported oxygen and related equipment for three years.

Besides, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has asked its field officers to clear such shipments on highest priority.

India has been reporting more than three lakh new infections for almost a week.

Massive surge in cases have resulted in shortage of oxygen supplies, and other crucial medical supplies.

“Govt, under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi ji, permits importers of medical devices for making mandatory declarations required under Legal Metrology Rules, 2011, after custom clearance & before sale.

“This will help fulfil (India’s) demand of medical devices required for Covid-19,” commerce and industry and consumer affairs minister Piyush Goyal said in a tweet on Thursday.

Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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