ISLAMABAD: The government has exempted import of 61 diagnostic support and personal protective equipment (PPEs) from all duties and taxes for a period of three months in order to reduce the rising prices in the domestic market.
The government has also allowed the use of non-utilised amount of the World Bank-funded projects worth $40 million for purchase of COVID-19 equipment.
The decision on duty waiver came through three different notifications — SRO235, SRO236 and SRO237 — issued by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
The decision was much awaited with a spike in coronavirus cases in Pakistan and shortages in supply of these items, especially PPEs, in the local market.
In order to combat the virus, Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar said in a tweet, non-utilised funds had been immediately redirected from the $40m World Bank projects and cleared to be used by the federal and provincial governments for COVID-19 equipment purchases and responses — $7.5m by Punjab, $10m by Sindh, $7m by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, $2m by Balochistan and $13.5m by the Centre.
However, he clarified that the allocation of such funds between the provinces was not determined by the federal government. It was simply a reallocation of non-utilised funds going back to the same provinces where they were lying unused earlier, the minister said, adding that the $40m amount was a part of the $600m package being arranged.
As per notifications, the government exempted import of PPEs – suits, masks, gloves, goggles and head covers – from customs duty, regulatory duty, additional customs duty, sales tax and withholding tax. Customs duty on these items is meagre but it attracts the standard rate of 17pc sales tax on import. There is also income tax in the range of 4.5pc to 5pc on import of all these items.
As per notifications, the government withdrew duties and taxes on import of powdered air purifying respirators, nitrile gloves, latex gloves, goggles, face shields, gum boots, mackintosh bed sheets, surgical masks, multimode ventilator with air compressor, vital sign monitor with 21BP, ICU-motorised bed with side cabinet and over bed table, syringe infusion pump, infusion pump and electric suction machine.
The list also includes blood gas analyser, AMBU bag, airways, Diaflow, disposable nebuliser mask kit, ECG electrodes, endotracheal tubes of all sizes, humidifier disposable flexible, IV canola of all sizes, IV chambers, oxygen recovery kit, padded sheets, stomach tube, stylet for endotracheal tube, suction tube control valve, tracheostomy tube 7, 7.5, 8, ventilator circuit, ventury masks, disposable shoes cover (water proof), defibrillator, X-ray mobile machine, simple nebuliser, ultrasound machine, non-invasive BIPAP, ECG machine, pulse oximeters, ripple mattress, life technologies 7500 real time PCR with RNasep instrument verification kit and complete guides documentation and software.
The list also includes bio-safety cabinets class-II type, autoclave 50-litre capacity, multi-channel pipette 5-10ml, single channel pipette set of four, multi-channel pipette 20-200ml, vacuum fold, mini spin, PCR chambers, PCR kits (95 tests) for suspects diagnosis, QIAMP viral RNA mini kit, viral transport medium, refrigerator/ freezer-20 CModel MPR-414 F, Dr Oligo synthesiser, vortex machine-3000 RPM 220v, refrigerated centrifuge machine temperature range 20-40 model, UPS 6KVA APC smart, tyvek suits, N-95 masks, biohazard bags (18 litres).
The government will also impose a ban on export of medical equipment. The Ministry of Commerce has yet to notify the ban on export of masks. The draft notification is still with the law division. Meanwhile, it is believed that the export of masks is stopped by the customs authorities on a letter from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan.
Similarly, the commerce ministry will have to ensure availability of 100,000 litres/per month of 99.9pc pure ethanol for the country’s requirements by regulating export of ethanol. Local manufacturers will be taken on board for mass production of ethanol-based hand sanitisers in required quantity.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2020