The need to save lives drives the immediate allocation of short-notice incoming Covid-19 aid consignments

Terming it a ‘Whole of Government’ approach in leading the fight against the Covid19 pandemic in collaboration with States and UTs, the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday stated that a streamlined and systematic mechanism for allocation of the support supplies has been put in place.

“The Government of India is leading the fight against the COVID19 pandemic in collaboration with the States and UT through a ‘Whole of Government’ approach,” said a statement by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

“The global community has extended a helping hand in supporting efforts of Government of India in this collective fight against the global COVID19 pandemic,” it said adding that medical equipment, medicines, oxygen concentrators, ventilators are being provided by many countries.

“A streamlined and systematic mechanism for allocation of the support supplies received by India has been put into place, for effective distribution of the medical and other relief and support material,” said the statement.

Noting that the Indian Customs is sensitive to the need for availability of COVID related imports including Oxygen & Oxygen related equipment etc., and are working 24 x 7 to fast track and clear the goods on arrival and lead to expeditious clearance within hours, the MoHFW statement assured that steps taken for expeditious clearance on fast track basis.

The steps include giving high priority for clearance by the Customs systems, nodal officers getting an alert over email for monitoring and clearance, monitoring by senior officers for pendency of Covid related imports, handholding to the trade is given beforehand for complying with the requirements and outreach activities and helpdesks enables trade to get the goods cleared on arrival.

In addition to faster clearance, the Indian customs has waived Basic Customs Duty and Health cess on goods identified for defending Covid, the statement mentioned.

Also, when such goods are imported free of cost and distributed freely, based on the state govt. certification, IGST is also waived, it stated.

Further, for import of oxygen concentrators for personal use, IGST has been reduced from 28% to 12%, the statement said.

It further said that, a cell was created in the Ministry under Addl. Secretary [Health], MoHFW to coordinate the receipt and allocation of foreign COVID relief material as grants, aid and donations.

The statement informed that this Cell has started functioning on April 26.

Apart from this, a high-level committee under CEO, NITI Aayog and comprising of Secretary Expenditure, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and officials of NITI Aayog and MoHFW has also been formed to oversee the whole operation, it mentioned.

Noting that the Ministry of External Affairs is the nodal agency for channeling offers of help from foreign countries and coordinates with Missions abroad, the MoHFW statement said that MEA has issued its own SOPs which are applicable across board.

For all consignments received via MEA and coming as donations from foreign countries; the consignee is the Indian Red Cross Society, it added.

Accessibility and the immediate use of resources to save the lives drives the need for immediate allocation of short-notice incoming consignments, the statement reasoned.

The allocations are done keeping in mind equitable distribution and the load on tertiary health care facilities, it argued.

In the first few days, the states were covered via the AIIMS and other central institutions where the critical care patients load is high and where the need is highest, said the statement.

Besides, the Central Govt hospitals, including DRDO facilities in and around Delhi and in the NCR region were also supplemented through the aid, it added.

The statement observed that tertiary health care facilities normally have higher number of cases with severe symptoms of Covid and are often the only succour to people in the region for quality tertiary care.

The distribution of the grant in aid is in accordance with the SOP for allocations issues by the Health Ministry on May 2, it mentioned.