New Delhi: The ministry of environment, forest and climate change has withdrawn its April 1 order that allowed imports of second-hand ventilators while fast-tracking import permissions required from it, through the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), for any other equipment related to Covid-19 testing or treatment. The development comes days after concerns were raised over the ministry’s order allowing import of second-hand ventilators citing the urgent need for ventilators to treat Covid-19 patients.

Already, the ministry has started approving urgent requests for equipment within three days, said people aware of the matter. “We have told DGFT that whenever Covid-19 related imports are required and impacted by the HSMD (Hazardous Substances Management Division), please communicate it to us and we will give relaxations immediately where necessary. Some requests have already been referred to us and duly approved,” a senior official in the know told ET on condition of anonymity.

Imports which require a prior consideration under the Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Trans boundary Movement) mandate are referred to the HSMD for prior clearance. These include electrical and electronics assemblies (EEAs), medical equipment for reuse and refurbished spares, parts and components for warranty replacement. In keeping with the usual process, all such imports are to be in detail by the HSMD’s technical review committee before granting approval or withholding it.

Second-hand ventilators, however, will not be allowed to be imported. Senior officials from the ministry told ET that the permission stands “withdrawn” as it was “wrongly worded” and was only meant as a one-time clearance for 200 ventilators held up at Chennai port by the customs department since 2018.

Skylark Office Machines had imported these ventilators in November 2018 from a US-based firm which were confiscated by customs. State-run Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation Ltd recently urged the DGFT to allow use of these ventilators to treat Covid-19 patients. The green ministry gave the permission on a one-time basis, said the officials.

The April 1 order had noted that the ministry had received several requests for relaxation in the import policy to facilitate clearance of used ventilators. Accordingly, the ministry had permitted the “import of used ventilators by hospitals for a period of six months i.e.
till 30.09.2020” and said that used ventilators already imported and held up at ports may also be cleared.

The order had reversed the Centre’s position on the issue till then – as per Schedule VI of the Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Trans boundary Movement) Rules, 2016, critical care medical equipment for reuse, including ventilators, is prohibited for import.

The Association of Indian Medical Device Industry, among others, had immediately cautioned that second-hand equipment could end up endangering lives of patients in case the devices were not compliant to quality standards and would require frequent repairs.