COVID-19 Updates: GST rates on black fungus drug, other essentials slashed; India reports lowest daily cases in 70 days


Arvind Kejriwal said Saturday that the possibility of a third COVID-19 wave hitting Delhi was ‘real’ and that preparations need to be made to ensure readiness

India Saturday registered the lowest single-day COVID-19 tally in 70 days after adding 84,332 fresh infections, pushing the overall count to 2.93 crore. Meanwhile, active cases in the country fell below 11 lakh (10,80,690) after 63 days, while the positivity rate remained below five percent for the fifth straight day.

The country, however, continued to report a high number of COVID-related deaths with 4,002 fatalities being reported in the same period. The rise has been attributed to the backlog from states like Maharashtra, which alone reported 2,213 deaths on Saturday.

GST council recommends slashing tax on COVID essentials

On the policy front, the GST Council recommended slashing the tax rates on several COVID-19 related items including pulse oximeters, ventilators, testing kits, oxygen concentrators, masks, etc to five percent, while announcing zero tax on the black fungus drug Amphotericin and the immunosuppressive drug Tocilizumab. However, the 5 percent GST on the COVID-19 vaccines, a demand made by several Opposition leaders, remained unchanged.

 

Addressing the media after chairing the 44th GST Council meeting, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Council decided to go ahead with the recommendations made by the Group of Ministers (GoM) in their report.

All these revised rates will be valid till 30 September as against August-end, she said.

The Council approved rate reduction for anti-coagulants like heparin as well as Remdesivir — a drug for treating severe cases of COVID-19 — from 12 percent to five percent.

The Council also slashed the tax rate from 12 percent to 5 percent on medical grade oxygen, BiPaP machines, while GST on ambulances has been reduced to 12 percent from the current 28 percent.

“Today’s meeting was a single-agenda meeting on the Group of Ministers which was constituted in the last GST Council meeting to come up with recommendations on tax relief for COVID-19 essentials,” said the finance minister.

“Five percent GST on vaccines will stay. The Centre will buy the 75 percent vaccine as announced and will pay its GST too,” she added.

Read more: Complete list of tax cuts on COVID essentials

Centre refutes article claiming India hiding real figure of COVID-19 toll

The Centre, meanwhile, issued a sharp rebuttal to an international magazine, which claimed the government’s numbers of COVID-19 fatalities represent a disturbingly small fraction of the real figure.

Without naming the magazine, the Union health ministry labelled the news report as an “unsound analysis”.

“States/UTs have to record COVID-19 deaths as per the guidance for an appropriate recording of COVID-19 deaths in India issued by ICMR. We have regularly emphasised the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district wise cases and deaths on a daily basis,” the ministry said.

“A renowned international magazine in an article speculated that India suffered perhaps five-seven times excess deaths than official COVID-19 deaths. Studies used by the magazine as an estimate of excess mortality aren’t validated tools to determine the mortality rate of a country/region,” the statement said, adding, “It is a speculative article, which is without any basis and seems to be misinformed. The unsound analysis of the said article is based on the extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence.”

Several reports in the past, have alleged that India has been under-reporting COVID-19 deaths. A re-verification of COVID-19 deaths in Bihar recently highlighted 4,000 additional deaths. Several media reports have also accused Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, Karnataka, Haryana and Chhattisgarh of underreporting COVID-19 deaths. Underreporting has also emerged as a global problem with the US, Russia also accused of undercounting COVID-19 deaths.

Regulatory nod for conducting clinical trials of Colchicine on COVID-19 patients: CSIR

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has given approval to the CSIR and Laxai Life Sciences Private Limited to conduct a clinical trial of Colchicine on COVID-19 patients, according to a statement on Saturday.

Ram Vishwakarma, the advisor to the CSIR Director-General, said Colchicine in combination with standard care will be an important therapeutic intervention for COVID-19 patients with cardiac co-morbidities and also for reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines, leading to faster recovery.

A number of global studies have confirmed that cardiac complications during the course of COVID-19 infections and post- COVID-19 syndrome are leading to the loss of many lives, and it is essential to look for new or repurposed drugs, he said.

Rajasthan announces relief package for children orphaned by COVID-19

The Rajasthan government on Saturday announced a financial package for the children orphaned by the COVID-19 pademic and the women who lost their husband to the infection.

Under the initiative, the children whose parents died from the disease will be given Rs 1 lakh as an immediate grant, an official statement said, adding that they will be provided Rs 2,500 a month till they attain 18 years of age.

Such children will be provided Rs 5 lakh assistance on the completion of 18 years, free higher secondary education besides other benefits proposed under the “Mukhyamantri Corona Bal Kalyan Yojna”.

An ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh and a pension of Rs 1,500 a month will be given to the women whose husband succumbed to the infection, according to the official statement. For the children of the widows, Rs 1,000 a month per child and Rs 2,500 a month for school books and dress will also be given, it said.

IMA to hold countrywide protest over assault on doctors on 18 June

The Indian Medical Association will hold a protest on 18 June against the assault on doctors, with the slogan of ‘save the saviours’.

In a statement, the apex medical body asked all its state and local branches across the country to observe the protest by wearing black badges, masks, ribbons, shirts and running an awareness campaign against violence targeting healthcare professionals.

The IMA said press conferences will also be organised and they will also meet local NGOs and voluntary service leaders.

It termed “extremely disturbing” a series of violence against doctors in the last two weeks in Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and other places.

The IMA also demanded the implementation of central hospital and Health Care Professionals Protection Act with IPC and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), standardisation and augmentation of security in each hospital, and declaring hospitals as protected zones among others.

No proof to suggest third wave will affect children more: Report

There appears to be no substantial evidence to suggest that children will be more affected or have greater illness severity due to COVID-19 in the anticipated third wave, according to a new report.

The Lancet COVID-19 Commission India Task Force prepared the report after convening an experts group comprising leading paediatricians from the country to examine the issue of ‘paediatric COVID-19 ‘ in India.

It said the infection’s symptomatology in children in India appears to be globally comparable.

“Most children with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and amongst those symptomatic mild infections are predominant. Most children have a fever with respiratory symptoms, and often present with gastrointestinal symptoms (such as diarrhoea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen) and atypical manifestation compared to adults. The proportion of symptomatic children increases as age increases as does the severity in such age groups,” the report stated

Claims of CoWIN system hacking, data leak ‘baseless’: Centre

The government on Saturday dismissed the claims of hacking of the CoWIN system and data leak as “baseless”. In a statement, the Union Health Ministry said the matter of the alleged hacking of the CoWIN system has been investigated by the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Dr RS Sharma, chairman of the Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration, has clarified that “the claims of so-called hackers on the dark web, relating to the alleged hacking of the CoWIN system and data leak, is baseless. We continue to take appropriate steps as are necessary, from time to time, to ensure that the data of the people are safe with Co-WIN.”

Delhi preparing on war footing to combat third COVID-19 wave: Kejriwal

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said Saturday that the possibility of a third wave hitting Delhi was “real” and that preparations need to be made to ensure readiness.

He was speaking at an event to inaugurate 22 pressure swing adsorption oxygen generation plants across nine city hospitals.

“In the UK, we are seeing a third wave building despite 45 percent people being vaccinated there. The intensity of the cases, however, is lower, it is being said. The chances of a third wave are real, we can’t say we are not prepared,” said Kejriwal.

 

Over 25.87 cr inoculated against COVID-19 till now: Health ministry

More than 25.87 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have been provided to states and union territories so far through the Centre and direct state procurement category, the Union health ministry said on Saturday.

Of 25,87,41,810, the total consumption, including wastage, is 24,76,58,855 doses (according to data available at 8 am on Saturday), the ministry said in a statement.

“More than 1.12 crore (1,12,41,187) Covid vaccine doses are still available with states/UTs to be administered,” it added. Furthermore, the ministry said more than 10,81,300 vaccine doses are in the pipeline and will be received by states and union territories within the next three days.

With inputs from PTI



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