The UK government said today it plans to suspend tariffs on a wide range of goods in the fight against COVID-19, including face masks, gloves and other protective equipment, starting 1 January.
The government said it had already provided tariff relief for critical medical products for the NHS and other public bodies since the start of the pandemic.
Under the new measures, private sector organisations, including care homes, which were previously paying tariffs between 2% and 12% on these goods, will also be exempt from tariffs, the Department for International Trade said In a statement.
In May, the government announced the UK Global Tariff (UKGT), which will apply to products from countries not covered by alternative trade agreements following the end of the EU transition period.
Many medical and pharmaceutical goods, including vaccines, will be made tariff-free under the UKGT, but the government said it is now “going one step further” and ensuring there are no additional costs on any items on the World Health Organisation’s latest list of critical goods.
Items on the list include protective goggles, hand sanitiser, medical scrubs and face shields.
The procurement process will also be more streamlined for the NHS and other front-line public services, which will now automatically get these goods tariff-free rather than having to apply for reliefs.
It will keep costs down for care providers across the public and private sector, the government said.
Secretary of state for international trade, Liz Truss, said: “The global need for these vital goods in 2021 will be just as great as it has been this year and we continue to work with partners around the world to keep supply chains flowing.”
“As we emerge as an independent trading nation, we will shape our trade policy to the needs of the UK economy and society and will be a powerful voice for open markets and free trade,” she added.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to battle COVID-19, the government said on Wednesday it will partner with India to deliver vaccines for coronavirus and other deadly viruses
The UK also announced that more than 137,000 people in the country have received the first dose of the Pfizer (PFE)/BioNTech (BNTX) COVID-19 vaccine in the first week of the largest vaccination programme in British history.
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