The Union Health Ministry on Thursday said no oxygen concentrators, received as Covid-19 relief from other countries, were pending to be cleared with Customs authorities.
The statement came amid reports that supplies had not reached medical facilities in states that required it urgently.
“The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has clarified that there is no such pendency with Indian Customs,” the Union health ministry statement read. “The Indian Customs is swiftly clearing all consignments and no such figures of pendency exist across any port of import.”
The Union health ministry said that 3,000 oxygen concentrators were received as global aid to tackle the Covid-19 surge in India. “The oxygen concentrators are either delivered to the identified tertiary care institutions, or been dispatched for delivery,” the government said. “The relief material has been dispatched through road and air too. There are no oxygen contractors lying in the warehouse of the Customs Department, it is clarified.”
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The foreign Covid-19 aid were given high priority for clearance and were processed before other goods, the Centre added. “While the nodal officers get alerts on email for monitoring and clearance, monitoring by senior officers for pendency of Covid related imports is also being undertaken,” it said.
On May 3, Scroll.in was the first to report that 300 tonnes of foreign assistance had arrived at Delhi airport since April 28, but states were yet to hear about their share in it. The next day, the Central government said the materials had been dispatched to 31 states and Union Territories. “All possible attempts have been made to distribute them immediately,” the statement released by the Union health ministry said.
Interviews of state officials, however, revealed that the distribution process began as late as May 3 evening, more than a week after the first batch of emergency Covid-19 assistance arrived in India.
On May 5, a day after the Centre said it had dispatched Covid-19 relief supplies donated by other countries to states and medical institutions across India, some hospitals identified as the recipients still awaited the supplies.
On May 3, the Finance Ministry had clarified that there was no pending consignment of 3,000 oxygen concentrators with the customs authorities. The statement followed after the Delhi High Court asked the Centre to provide details of oxygen concentrators that were said to be stuck at the customs department for clearance.
On the night of May 3, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs had tweeted again, saying that an image doing the rounds on social media of imports pending clearance was 842 packets of 300 oxygen concentrators from Hong Kong. The package was received on April 30, the agency said.