After 4-month curb, Centre allows export of made-in-India ventilators

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NEw Delhi The export of indigenously manufactured ventilators was approved by group of ministers (GoM) on the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at their 19th meeting on Friday, the Union health ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

“The Group of Ministers (GOM) on COVID-19 has considered and agreed to the proposal of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare allowing the export of made-in-India ventilators. This decision has been communicated to the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) for further needed action to facilitate the export of indigenously manufactured ventilators,” said the statement

According to officials in the ministry aware of the matter, India now has the capacity to manufacture ventilators indigenously, allowing it to export the machines.

“We now have at least a couple of dozen manufactures of ventilators in the country as opposed to a few some six months ago. The data before us suggests Covid-19 patients in India largely need oxygen therapy and not mechanical ventilation as much, and our case fatality rate is also very low, which is why in terms of demand and supply we are pretty comfortably placed. It opens up export avenues and that’s why the idea was discussed. Fortunately, everyone was on same page on this,” said one of the ministry officials, who did not wish to be identified.

Between them, a couple of big manufacturers who earlier used to produce about 50-100 ventilators in a month can now manufacture anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 ventilators.

DGFT had prohibited the export of ventilators in March to ensure domestic availability of the machines to effectively fight the viral disease.

Through a notification issued on March 24, 2020, all types of ventilators were prohibited for export. “…Now with export of ventilators having been allowed, it is hoped that domestic ventilators would be in a position to find new markets for Indian ventilators in foreign countries,” the health ministry statement read.

As on July 31, 2020, 0.22% of about 500,000 active cases were on ventilators across the country.

India’s case fatality rate (CFR) has been progressively declining, which also means fewer patients are on ventilators. According to the government data, India’s CFR on June 18 was 3.33%, which came down to 2.72% on July 10; it currently stands at 2.15%.

“We have managed to curtail deaths due to Covid-19 quite well, and one of the reasons could be we are detecting cases early, and patients who are sick enough to require hospitalization is a small number. The number of cases could increase but how well an outbreak is managed depends largely on how many lives a country is able to save,” says Dr GC Khilnani, former head of the pulmonary medicine department at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

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