NEW DELHI, India: After being stung by public criticism over the high costs of medical care during the Coronavirus surge in April and May, the Indian government has cut taxes on medical equipment and drugs used to treat COVID-19.
Releasing a list of Covid-releated treatment materials that have seen taxes reduced on them, the government cut taxes on medical grade oxygen, ventilators, the remdesivir antiviral drug, diagnostic kits, pulse oximeters and hand sanitizers.
The taxes were immediately reduced to 5 percent from the previous 12-18 percent.
The reduced taxes are to remain in place until the end of September, according to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Also, the new rate is to apply to taxes on electric furnaces in crematoriums and ambulances.
"The rate cut has not be done with any cost implication (on government finances) in mind, it has been done so that people get some ease....the decision has been taken to provide ultimate ease to patients," Revenue Secretary Tarun Bajaj told a news conference.
However, the government will continue to tax vaccines at 5 percent, he added.
India, the world's second-most populous country, saw new coronavirus cases reach 400,000 per day in May. However, as of this week new cases had fallen to 84,332, the lowest rate in more than two months, data from the health ministry showed.
Also, there were 4,002 deaths on Saturday.
India has reported that 29.4 million people have contracted Covid and 367,081 have died.
During the second wave of the Covid virus, much of the population sought out costly private treatment.
It was also common for many to pay twenty times the usual price for oxygen cylinders on the black market, and large sums when ordering ambulances and hearses.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the government will take over the inoculation of the public from Indian states and offer free doses to everyone over the age of 18.
Modi also said the government would allow private hospitals to administer 25 percent of all vaccines, but they could not charge more than $2.06 over the cost of the vaccine dose.