India’s Ministry of Finance has further extended a customs duty exemption on the import of items relating to the treatment of COVID-19.
Now set to be in place until at least September 30th, the measure that was originally implemented on April 24th was scheduled to end on August 31st.
As well as the coronavirus vaccine, the exemption also applies to equipment designed to deliver oxygen to patients suffering from the virus.
The government explained in a statement that conditions had been satisfied to determine it was in the public interest to extend the relief period.
Duty exemptions were originally put in place during the second COVID-19 wave when India was particularly hard hit and demand for oxygen meant its import needed to be expedited.
Prime minister Narendra Modi emphasized at the time the importance of ensuring customs clearance on these lifesaving items did not face any unnecessary delays.
Among the equipment exempted are medical grade oxygen, oxygen concentrators, canisters, filling systems, tanks, generators, intermodal containers for shipping oxygen, all oxygen-generating devices, ventilators and high-flow nasal cannula devices.
In response to the death toll at the height of the pandemic, the Indian government announced it would reduce its reliance on oxygen imports by setting up new oxygen plants in the country.
So far, 425 of the 1,222 of these planned plants have gone into operation.
As of the end of August, the health ministry reports India has 376,000 cases of coronavirus and the death toll has reached 438,000.
The nation reached its peak for cases in May and while it has dropped ten percent since then, there’s still an average 38,685 new infections each day.
Economic recovery has begun in the wake of the second wave, but could be hit once more if a third outbreak of the virus takes hold.