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Amid a massive oxygen crisis across the nation, the Centre on Saturday decided to waive off the customs duty and health cess on import of oxygen and oxygen related equipment for three months with immediate effect. This was decided during a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the steps taken to boost oxygen availability in the country.

The government further decided that customs duty on import of Covid vaccines will also be exempted for the same time period.

During the meet, the prime minster emphasised that there was an immediate need to augment the supply of medical-grade oxygen as well as equipment required for COVID patients both at home and in hospitals. He stressed that all ministries and departments need to work in synergy to up availability of oxygen and medical supplies.

The PM also directed the Revenue Department to ensure seamless and quick custom clearance of such equipment.

Further, the prime minister was briefed that basic customs duty was exempted on Remdesivir and its API recently. It was suggested that import of equipments related to providing oxygen to patients needs to be expedited.

"In order to augment their production and availability and to meet the rising demand, it was decided to grant full exemption from Basic Customs Duty and health cess on import of the items related to Oxygen and Oxygen related equipment for a period of three months with immediate effect," the official statement said.

The oxygen and oxygen related equipment include medical grade oxygen, oxygen concentrator along with flow meter, regulator, connectors and tubing, oxygen cannister, oxygen filling systems, oxygen storage tanks, oxygen cylinders including cryogenic cylinders and tanks etc.

The official statement also said, "This will boost availability of these items as well as make them cheaper."

The Government of India 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 times. Similarly, in a major decision yesterday, free food grains will be given 80 crore Indians for the month of May and June 2021, it added

Saturday's meeting was attended by the Finance Minister, Commerce and Industry Minister, Health Minister, Principal Secretary to the PM, Member NITI Aayog, Dr Guleria and Secretaries of the department of Revenue, Health and DPIIT and other officials.

(With inputs from agencies)

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