Customs to clear life-saving drug, oxygen equipment imports on highest priority

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New Delhi, Apr 24 (PTI) The finance ministry has directed Customs officers to clear all import consignments, including life-saving drugs and oxygen equipment, used in COVID treatment on the highest priority amid a surge in infections across the country.

Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) said the decision is aimed at ensuring that all such materials and equipment reach the intended beneficiaries within the shortest possible time.

'CBIC has given directions to all its field formations to clear these consignments on the highest priority,' the board said in a tweet.

Also, nodal officer Gaurav Masaldan has been appointed in the Revenue Department for issues related to customs clearance for oxygen and related items.

'A nodal officer is nominated by @cbic_india for facilitation in case of any difficulty at ports on customs clearance specifically on oxygen & related items,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted.

Considering the scourge of COVID-19 and the surge of cases in the country, it is imperative that the import of critical raw materials, life-saving drugs etc reach the intended users/beneficiaries in time for an effective fight against the pandemic, CBIC said.

'Hence, it is requested that all customs formations may be sensitised of the urgency of this matter and may be directed to give high priority for customs clearance of import of goods relating to COVID-19 pandemic, including oxygen related equipment etc,' a communication by CBIC to its customs officers said.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal also said in a tweet that in another step towards fighting COVID-19, customs will expedite clearances for import consignments relating to the pandemic to ensure critical equipment and medicine can reach on time.

The government has already waived all customs duty on imported Remdesivir injections and the drug's active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) to boost supplies.

India recorded 3,46,786 new infections in a 24-hour period - the highest daily case count in a single country since the virus surfaced in China more than a year ago. Over the past two months, the outbreak in India has exploded, with reports of super spreader gatherings, oxygen and medicine shortages.

The daily death toll has also climbed to record 2,624. PTI JD BAL BAL