The National Board of Revenue (NBR) is set to remove all forms of import duties and taxes to encourage quick import of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), raw materials used in hand sanitisers, coronavirus testing kits and re-agents, said finance ministry officials yesterday.
The list for duty-free import items also includes surgical masks and various sterilising agents.
An official notification is likely to be issued today, said a senior official of the country's revenue authority seeking anonymity as he is unauthorised to speak to media.
About 17 items used to treat coronavirus patients and stem the rate at which the highly contagious pathogen spreads will be offered duty-free benefits to reduce import costs.
The move comes amid growing fears that a full-blown COVID-19 outbreak will occur in the country that has a less than ideal supply of coronavirus testing kits and PPE equipment such as gowns, surgical masks, goggles and hand sanitisers to tackle the situation.
Some of the items, for example hand sanitisers, are already hard to come by as panic buying has left manufacturers struggling to cope with the sudden surge in demand.
With the general public scrambling to stockpile the product, not only has the retail price for hand sanitisers gone up, but the cost of raw materials used for manufacturing it has also risen.
Although the virus was first spotted in Wuhan, China in December last year, it has since spread across the globe. As of yesterday, the pandemic claimed the lives of more than 11,000 individuals worldwide.
Physicians and public health experts in Bangladesh recently voiced concerns over the government's inadequate measures that have put the country at risk of a mass outbreak.
As of last week, there were about 2,000 coronavirus testing kits available in the country. Yesterday though, the World Health Organisation had 10,000 testing kits shipped to Bangladesh from Singapore.
The initiative to remove import tariffs on equipment used for coronavirus testing and treatment was taken to increase the availability of such products, the NBR officials said.
The zero-duty import scheme is likely to continue for three months, they added.