The Centre on Thursday removed customs duty and cess on ventilators, face and surgical masks, personal protection equipment and Covid-19 test kits to boost availability of these products, PTI reported.

“In the context of Covid-19 situation, considering the immediate requirement of ventilators and other items, the central government has granted exemption from basic customs duty and health cess, on the import of these goods, with immediate effect,” the Finance Ministry’s Department of Revenue said in a statement. “This basic customs duty exemption shall be available up to the September 30 this year.” The exemptions will also apply to input materials used to manufacture these items.

Most of the items attracted 7.5% customs duty, the Hindustan Times reported. A 5% health cess on the customs duty payable on medical devices was introduced earlier this year to fund growth of medical expenditure.

The government intends to import more ventilators, masks, PPEs and test kits to supplement domestic production amidst the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country. Many more test kits are needed as India’s rate of testing per million patients is very low and could conceal the real number of cases nationwide.

The country is currently under a 21-day lockdown which ends on April 14, but may be extended. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there have been 6,412 cases of Covid-19 in India, with 199 deaths and 503 recoveries.

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