In order to improve the health sector, the State Bank of Pakistan enhanced financing limit of a single hospital/ medical center under its Refinance Facility for Combating COVID -19 (RFCC) from Rs. 200 million to Rs. 500 million. RFCC is an emergency funding facility to support hospitals/medical centers to develop their capacities for treatment of infected patients of COVID-19. So far, financing of Rs. 2.2 billion for 11 hospitals/medical centers has been approved.
Further, authorized dealers are allowed to make advance payments of up to 100% of the value of imports as well make payments without any limit (on open account basis), on behalf of federal and provincial government departments and organizations, public and private sector hospitals or their approved agents, charitable organizations and commercial importers for the import of medical equipment, medicines, and ancillary items for the medical treatment of Covid-19 epidemic. Banks have been allowed to approve Electronic Import Form (EIF) for import of the equipment, donated by international donor agencies and foreign governments. In addition to the above, the Federal Board of Revenue has also notified that the import of certain items relating to diagnostic support and health safety items required to combat Covid-19 would be exempted from taxes including income tax, sales tax and customs duties for a period of 3 months from the date of the notification, that is, from 20-03-2020.
The Government of Pakistan has also banned the export of anti-malaria medicines till further order/decision from the National Co-ordination Committee (“NCC”) for COVID-19. Other precautionary measures include steps such as the ban on Sale of Non-conforming Sanitizers. The Government has so far banned 23 brands of sanitizers which are non-confirming to the standards set by the Quality Control Regulatory Authority.
The federal government notified ban on exports of certain personal protective equipment due to increase in its demand with a spike in coronavirus cases in Pakistan. These include, inter alia, Tyvek Suits, Disposable Gowns and Gloves, Face Shields, Surgical Masks, N 95 Masks, Biohazard Bags, Goggles, Shoe cover and hand sanitizers. SBP has made amendment in the existing foreign exchange regulations to facilitate the import of medical equipment, medicines, ancillary items etc., which may be required for the medical treatment of the disease and the Ministry of Commerce has exempted customs duties and other regulatory and additional custom duty in relation to specified medical equipment and items for a period of Three months on the recommendation of the Ministry of National Health, Services Regulation & Coordination (MNHSR&C)
The Ministry of Commerce has also allowed Commercial importers to import of acetone, anthranilic acid, ethyl ether, hydrochloric acid, and sulphuric acid subject to NOC and quota determination by Ministry of Narcotics Control.