New Delhi [India], May 4 (ANI): The health infrastructure of several States and UTs has been overwhelmed by the high number of daily COVID-19 cases and increased mortality in the country.
To help India during the crisis, the global community has extended a helping hand in supporting the efforts of the Government of India in this collective fight against the global COVID19 pandemic by providing medical equipment, medicines, oxygen concentrators, ventilators among other necessities.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 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.
As per an official release, the Indian Customs is sensitive to the need for availability of COVID related imports including Oxygen and Oxygen related equipment and are working 24 x 7 to fast track and clear the goods on arrival and lead to expeditious clearance within hours.
"The steps taken for expeditious clearance on fast track basis are as follows: The goods are given high priority for clearance by the Customs Systems for processing over other goods. Nodal officers also gets alert on email for monitoring and clearance. Monitoring by senior officers for pendency of COVID related imports is also being undertaken. The handholding to the trade is given for complying with the requirements beforehand. Outreach activities and helpdesk enables trade to get the goods cleared on arrival," it said.
In addition to faster clearance, the Ministry said that Indian customs has waived basic customs duty and health cess on goods identified for defending Covid.
"When imported free of cost and distributed freely, based on the state government certification, IGST is also waived. Further, for the import of oxygen concentrators for personal use, IGST has been reduced from 28 per cent to 12 per cent," it states.
Union Health Ministry has created a cell under Additional Secretary [Health], MoHFW to coordinate the receipt and allocation of foreign COVID relief material as grants, aid and donations.
The Ministry said this cell started functioning on April 26 and comprises one Joint Secretary on deputation from Ministry of Education, two Additional Secretary level officers from MEA, Chief Commissioner Customs, Economic Advisor from Ministry of Civil Aviation, Technical Advisor Directorate General of Health Services (Dte. GHS), representatives from HLL, two Joint Secretaries from MoHFW and Secretary-General along with another representatives from IRCS.
"The medical items started coming in as donations from different countries after the rise in sudden cases of Covid across the different parts of the country from the last week of April, via MEA. The materials are being given by countries due to the immediate and urgent requirements in different parts of the country. This help is over and above what the Government of India is already providing, and is thus an additionality for the states and UTs. Later on, supplies coming from private companies, and entities also started routing through the NitiAyog and are handled by this cell," the release said.
Apart from this, MoHFW said a high-level committee under CEO, NITI Aayog and comprising Secretary Expenditure, MEA and officials of Niti Aayog and MoHFW has also been formed to oversee the whole operation.
The Ministry of External Affairs is the nodal agency for channeling offers of help from foreign countries and coordinates with missions abroad. The MEA has issued its own SOPs which are applicable across board.
Ministry said that for all consignments received via MEA and coming as donations from foreign countries, the consignee is the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS).
"Upon receipt of the papers outlined in the process flow chart, IRCS issues the necessary certificates immediately to HLL for processing customs and regulatory clearances at Airports. IRCS also ensures liaison with MoHFW and HLL so that delays are reduced and quick turnarounds are achieved," it stated.
It further said that HLL Lifecare Limited (HLL) is the customs agent for IRCS, and the distribution manager for MoHFW. The consignments are processed at airport and transported for distribution by HLL. In case of consignments arriving at military airports, or bog items like oxygen plants, the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) assists HLL.
"Accessibility and the immediate use of resources to save lives drives the need for immediate allocation of short-notice incoming consignments. The materials from abroad are currently coming in different numbers, specifications and at different times. Hence there is a need to reconcile the distribution logistics with the need to reach the materials as expeditiously as possible to the states. Donor countries consignment details get confirmed only after the consignment gets booked in the country of origin."
"In many cases, the items received are not as per the list, or the quantities differ, which needs reconciling at the airport. The final list gets confirmed after the detailed reconciliation. Thus, it leaves less than a quarter day to manage the cycle including allocation, approval and dispatch. Under these circumstances, since these are time sensitive supplies, all possible attempts have been made to distribute them immediately and to ensure optimal use in the best possible way. All possible efforts are done to unpack, repack and dispatch these with the least possible turnaround time."
It further said that the allocations are done keeping in mind equitable distribution and the load on tertiary health care facilities. 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. Besides, the Central Government hospitals, including DRDO facilities in and around Delhi and in the NCR were also supplemented through the aid. It has been seen that tertiary health care facilities normally have a higher number of cases with severe symptoms of Covid and are often the only succour to people in the region for quality tertiary care.
As per the standard operating procedure for allocations taken out by the Health Ministry on May 2, Ministry said that since such grant in aid would be limited in quantity, therefore it has to be optimally utilised by allocating it to high burden states [states with higher number of active cases], where the requirement for such equipment/medicines is more.
It said that spreading such grant in aid thinly each time, over a large number of states may not bring forth the desired results. It will also lead to small packages travelling large distances, high turnaround times and possible wastage of resources.
The requirement of the high burden states in the context of number of persons admitted in hospitals as well as prior distribution done from GOI resources would also be considered. Special focus can also be on states considered as medical hubs of the region, which have a patient in-flow from neighbouring states/cities. In some cases, resource low states such as North Eastern and hill states where tankers etc., don't reach, can also be covered to shore up their needs.
Based on the above criteria and principles, 24 different categories of items numbering nearly 40 lakhs have been distributed to 86 Institutions in different States.
Major categories of equipment include BiPAP Machines, Oxygen (Oxygen Concentrators, Oxygen Cylinders, PSA Oxygen Plants, Pulse Oximeters), Drugs (Flaviparivir and Remdesivir), PPE (Coveralls, N-95 masks and gowns).
Ministry said that most of the states and UTs have either received or where the equipment has been dispatched, and as the different tranches are coming in, the rest of the States and UTs will also be covered in the coming days. (ANI)