Amid an outpouring of international help for India as the country battles the savage second wave of Covid, the government today put out an online form to address the bottlenecks at airports and ports for imported Covid-related medicines and equipment. The move could help hospitals that are reeling under shortages of beds, drugs and oxygen.
The Finance Ministry’s Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) urged importers to fill up a form to expedite customs clearance.
In the form, called “Pre-Intimation for Prompt Clearance of COVID related items”, importers have to give a brief description of goods and the end-use in COVID-19 treatment and/or relief operations.
The issuing of the online form comes at a time when questions have emerged over whether foreign Covid aid, that are arriving from various countries, is reaching its destination. Government officials have admitted to “teething problems” in distributing foreign aid.
On Monday, the Delhi High Court asked the centre to provide details of oxygen concentrators that are lying with the customs department pending clearance.
“This is a dynamic number. There is an order saying the clearance process has to be completed within 3 hours,” the centre said.
Asked if there was any backlog in clearance, the centre said it was not sure since everything is being cleared fast.
Last week, the government slashed the Integrated GST rate on oxygen concentrators for personal use to 12 per cent, from 28 per cent earlier, for two months till June 30. It had last month waived customs duty on import of medical grade oxygen, oxygen concentrator and related equipment.
India’s total Covid cases crossed the 2-crore mark today with over 3.57 lakh new infections. 3,449 more people died of the infection, pushing the total fatalities to 2,22,408.