Government considers ending zero duty on the import of COVID-19 related equipment
It is pertinent to mention that no reliable price information is available at this point in time.
According to recent reports, the country has received another batch of 500,000 vaccine doses gifted by the Chinese government. Following the vaccine gift, the Commerce Division is working on a plan to end duty exemptions on importing Covid-19 related machinery and material.
While speaking to a media outlet, a senior commerce ministry official said:
The cabinet has tasked the ministry to work on removing exemptions on the import of Covid-related material in a bid to protect the local industry.
It should be noted that currently, the local industry is paying 17% general sales tax for manufacturing Covid-related equipment and material. Reports state that the zero-duty regime for the import of Covid-related machinery has made the local products uncompetitive.
Cabinet Meeting Details
A cabinet meeting held last week informed that the government had exempted 61 diagnostic support and personal protective equipment (PPEs) from all duties and taxes in March last year. However, the local industry started manufacturing the equipment as well.
The ministers in the cabinet meeting further stated:
The zero duty on import of Covid-19 related equipment has made the local products uncompetitive. Because of the local production, a cabinet minister called for contribution in kind, instead of cash, to the Covid related funds.
The ministers recommended:
The government should review the zero-duty regime. The local manufacturers are paying 17% sales tax, which puts them in a disadvantageous position.
Following the meeting, the cabinet directed the commerce division to review the proposal and submit its recommendations.
Covid-19 Vaccine Prices
As per reports, the government has withdrawn its decision to allow the private sector to fix prices of Covid-19 vaccines and has delegated such power to the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) instead. The government is importing vaccines to administer free jabs to the people in phases.
Experts believe that there was a need to enable the private sector to import vaccines to administer to those segments of the society, who were not on the government’s immediate priority, under strict medical supervision in private healthcare facilities.
It is pertinent to mention that no reliable price information is available at this point in time. Moreover, different companies’ vaccines might differ on the use of technologies and the number of shots required for immunization.
Given the pricing situation, the cabinet considered that fixing the maximum retail price of vaccines under paragraph 4 of Drug Pricing Policy-2018 is not possible. The cabinet allowed exemption from Section 12 of the Drugs Act, 1976 for a period of 6 months or until the market prices of vaccines became available. A notification in this regard was issued on the 2nd of February 2021.
Later, a meeting of the National Command and Operation Committee (NCOC) was held on the 10th of February 2021 to discuss the matter of prices of vaccines in the market.
The NCOC meeting expressed its apprehensions that the vaccines might be sold or administered at very high prices if rates are not regulated. However, meeting members also emphasized that fixing maximum retail prices should be amended, keeping in view the urgency of the situation.
More Vaccine Arrives in Pakistan
The Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination reported:
Another batch of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine from Pakistan’s “iron brother” China has landed at the Nur Khan Airbase. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan and officials from the health ministry were present at the base to receive the vaccine doses.
Thanking China for its generous gift, Dr. Sultan said:
Beijing has always shown unwavering support for Islamabad in times of need.
Following this, during a regular news briefing in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said:
China will continue to work with Pakistan to strengthen anti-epidemic cooperation, including vaccine cooperation and contribution to building a global community of health for all.
Noting the relevant reports, the spokesperson said:
China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic partners. Pakistan is the first country to receive Chinese aided vaccines in the world, which reflects our special friendship, and which also represents new highlights in our practical cooperation.
Meanwhile, Planning Minister Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC, took to Twitter and said:
The vaccination campaign is going on in full swing. The highest daily vaccination rate of over 41,000 vaccinations was achieved yesterday – 28,424 of the administered people were senior citizens.
Current Covid-19 Scenario
Currently, Pakistan is grappling with the third wave of the pandemic. In it’s daily bulletin, the NCOC said:
The number of active Covid-19 cases came down to 22,792 on Wednesday – 2,351 more people tested positive for the virus, and 2,853 people made a full recovery in the last 24 hours.
According to recent reports, 61 coronavirus patients have died during the past 24 hours – 56 of whom were under treatment in hospital, including 22 on ventilators. During the last 24 hours, the majority of deaths have occurred in the province of Punjab, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
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