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'Wait and watch': Sitharaman to industry amid growth concerns over rising COVID-19 cases

Hope to see positive change after steps taken by government: Finance Minister


Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs Ms Nirmala Sitharaman, today urged the industry to wait and watch for the next few days to assess the situation amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Finance Minister also assured the industry of full government support.

Addressing the FICCI National Executive Committee Members through virtual mode, Sitharaman said that vaccination guidelines, the five-fold (test-track-treat-COVID protocols and vaccination) as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Tuesday address to the nation, would create a sense of reassurance.

“With all these steps, we should hope to see a positive change in the way the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic is moving. Industry is watching out and I would want you [industry] to keenly observe what is going on and we are together with the industry in [fighting] this [pandemic]. I am sure all of us together will understand how best to now ramp up and sustain the growth momentum which all of us are keen to see between the last quarter and this quarter,” Sitharaman added.

“I would request the industry to watch the next few days a bit more carefully, and then assess for yourself what this quarter is going to be like,” the Finance Minister exhorted.

Sitharaman noted the difficulty faced by sectors like hospitality, aviation, travel, tourism and hotels since the start of COVID-19 pandemic. “We have extended the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECGLS 2.0) for these sectors and I will ensure the efficiency with which it was performing last year shall perform even for the aviation and tourism sector,” the Finance Minister said.

Speaking on the oxygen supply, Ms Sitharaman said that the supply has been very neatly mapped and new permissions have been given particularly for the hard stressed 12 states (Delhi, Maharashtra, UP, Chhattisgarh, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala). The supply is being monitored at the district level along with reviews that are being undertaken and for the next 15 days, they will be closely monitored. “The government has exempted all inter-state movement of oxygen tankers, exempted from registration and permits, they can operate round the clock, and cylinder filling plants are operating 24 hours to fill the gaps with necessary safeguards,” the Finance Minister stated.

Elaborating on the augmented pharma capacity, Sitharaman stated that steps have been taken adequately for  important drugs, with fast-track approvals being given for Remdesivir production. Production will be ramped up to 1 lakh vials per month within next few months, she said.

The Finance Minister also said that as soon as the medical oxygen demand will be met, the industry would also get the necessary supply of oxygen since the import of medical oxygen has been allowed.

Uday Shankar, President, FICCI said that some clarity may be needed over essential and non-essential supply of goods. He further stressed the need to support the MSME sector which is currently facing difficulty.

Sanjiv Mehta, Senior Vice President, FICCI while delivering the vote of thanks reiterated that the industry will fully support the government in all its endeavours to ensure both lives and livelihood.

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