Best Practices in the Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic of WCO Members-EU
Get to know WCO Member Customs administrations’ best practices to prevent and fight the spread of COVID-19, while safeguarding supply chain continuity. Members are invited to share with the Secretariat information on the measures introduced to facilitate the movement of, not only relief supplies, but all goods, while applying appropriate risk management. Examples of enhanced coordination and cooperation with other government agencies and the private sector will also be highlighted, as well as measures to protect the health of Customs officers. In this article you’ll learn the best practices of EU countries.
1. Belgian Customs Administration Corona Measures – best practices Version 20 March 2020
Despite the fact that procurement has increased and additional production has been encouraged, the current level of Union production and existing stocks of protective equipment will not be sufficient to meet the demand within the Union. Therefore, the EU has issued Regulation 2020/402 of 14 March to control the export of protective equipment.
For the Belgian Customs Administration, that means:
- Selection system does not release the items of the annex of the regulation for export. Goods can only be cleared for export after verifying officers confirm that the shipment does not contain protective equipment OR if a licence is available.
- The necessary capacity is provided for the control of the measures
- There is ongoing concertation with major Belgian industrial stakeholders on the operational side of the regulation
- The competent authority provides certification for traders that are not targeted by the regulation (e.g. protective gear for automotive industry that has no medical use).
The Belgian Customs Administration issued temporary measures to allow relief of VAT and Customs duties for donations of equipment for the protection of personnel.
The relief is based on articles 57 – 58 of regulation 1186/2009.
Disinfectants, sanitizers, etc.
Pharmacists shall be allowed, as an exception and for a limited time, to store and use ethanol. We do require the beneficiaries of the exceptional rules to hold a register.
As a second measure, to increase the production of base substances for disinfectant sprays and liquids, the Belgian Customs Administration temporarily broadens the products that can be used for denaturation for this purpose. This enables pharmacists and hospitals to use alcohols to produce disinfectants based on stocks of available alcohols that would otherwise receive another destination (industrial use, destruction, etc.)
Measures for customs officers
The minister of Internal Affairs and Safety has listed the Customs Administration as an essential service for the vital functions of the Kingdom of Belgium.
This means the Customs Administration will continue its core function of protecting the interests of the Union and facilitate trade.
With this in mind, the Administration took severe measures for protection, based on the social distancing principle. Legislation, central services, litigation and prosecution, and all other non-first line officers work from home. Field officers have reduced staff numbers to allow less interaction.
2. Bulgarian Customs Agency 19 March 2020
The Bulgarian Customs Agency publishes information regarding COVID-19 on its administration’s web-site : https://customs.bg/wps/portal/agency/media-center/on-focus/covid-19 in Bulgarian and https://customs.bg/wps/portal/agency-en/media-center/on-focus/covid-19 in English.
A new National law on the emergency situation is in the final stage of preparation.
3. General Directorate of Customs of the Czech Republic 18 March 2020
The Customs administration follows closely the Government decisions, instructions from the Ministry of health and other instructions.
Internally, the General Directorate of Customs informs all staff about all relevant decisions and instruct about necessary procedure to be followed. All instructions are regularly updated. Externally the General Directorate of Customs publishes information on its website www.celnisprava.cz and deals individually with other relevant stakeholders (government and other state and institutions, transport operators, companies…).
4. Finnish Customs 18 March 2020
Due to the urgent need to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Finland and the related need to maintain the core functions of the society, the Finnish Government has issued a nationwide emergency legislation to be implemented starting from the 18th of March.
As it currently stands, the emergency procedures will be in place until the 13th of April, unless otherwise decided.
In practice this means that the critical sectors of the society will be upheld – including, but not limited to, border authorities, security authorities, hospitals and other emergency authorities. Schools will be closed, apart from certain exceptions. Public gatherings are limited to the maximum of ten people.
All civil servants with the possibility of working from home are ordered to work from home henceforth, with the exception of those who work for the critical functions and sectors.
Passenger traffic to Finland will be halted, with the exception of Finnish citizens and residents returning home. Necessary commute over the northern and western borders can still be allowed. Goods traffic will continue in a normal manner.
In Finnish customs all personnel except for those working in critical functions have been instructed to work from home from the 18th of March onwards. The critical functions include:
Customs control officers;
Crime prevention officers (incl. risk analysis officers);
National contact point;
Customs operational centre;
Customs clearance personnel;
IT managers (especially those responsible for troubleshooting);
Key personnel for Customs Statistics unit; Guarantee management;
IT Infrastructure maintenance and management personnel, including subcontractors;
Critical administrative functions (HR, premises, procurement, security, translation, communications)
Product safety officers;
Officers working for development projects that have a legal obligation to be completed according to schedules (e.g. those working for the VAT eCommerce Package).
5. Germany – Central Customs Authority 23 March 2020
Both the German Central Customs Authority and the local customs authorities have set up crisis teams to ensure the overall performance of customs tasks.
In order to guarantee personnel availability in the long term, the official tasks of the organizational units, which are in direct contact with those involved (e.g. customs clearance), have been reduced to the absolutely necessary core areas and the personnel required there to the absolute minimum. The use of personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, etc. is mandatory for these personnel. In addition, the relevant hygiene measures must be observed. Employees who are not absolutely necessary are put on standby duty. Persons returning from risk areas may not enter the office for 14 days after their return. This applies accordingly to employees who live in the same household as the aforementioned holiday returnees.
The German customs administration closely coordinates with the other European Member States and the EU Commission in order to maintain the movement of goods. In particular, the fast and smooth movement of goods required for COVID-19 treatment has a special focus.
The latest information is published on www.zoll.de.
6. Directorate General of Customs and Excise, Independent Authority for Public Revenue (IAPR), Greece 20 March 2020
|24.1.2020||The Regional Customs Authorities were given guidance so as to instruct the Customs Offices in their Region, to acquire masks and gloves.|
|24.2.2020||The Regional Customs Authorities were given guidance so as to communicate the hyper link of the Ministry of Health, with the protective measures to be observed by all staff in the Customs Offices.|
|28.2.2020||The Directorate General of Customs & Excise requested the allocation of funds for the disinfection of passenger control areas within the Customs Offices, as well as for the provision of special protective suits, masks, eye glasses and boots.|
|5.3.2020||The Regional Customs Authorities were given guidance so as to instruct the Customs Offices in their Region, to take the necessary steps for the procurement of disinfection services and the coordination of their actions with other Agencies operating on the Border, in Ports and Airports.|
|9.3.2020||Survey on the implementation of the disinfection measures, the stocks of protective material available and communication of further instructions (Circular Order of the Governor of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue/IAPR).|
|9.3.2020||A Crisis Management Group for Customs was established under the Director General of Customs & Excise.|
|14.3.2020||Customs Offices were instructed to have their staff working in alternate shifts (following a Decision of the Governor of the IAPR) in order to prevent spreading of the infection and safeguarding the operation of the Customs Offices in case of an incident during a shift.|
|16.3.2020||Survey: import data on essential supplies and medicines from all Customs Offices.|
|16.3.2020||The Regional Customs Authorities were given guidance so as to instruct the Customs Offices in their Region, to observe the guidelines issued by the General Secretariat for Civil Protection on avoiding standing queues in Customs premises (for example by customs brokers) and have those Guidelines pinned up on the entrance doors of the Customs Offices.|
7. Italian Customs and Monopolies Agency 24 March 2020
As regards publications and guidance material associated with the COVID-19 state of emergency, a section has been created on the website of the Italian Customs and Monopolies Agency (www.adm.gov.it) called EMERGENZA COVID 19 where you may find:
the guidelines issued by the Director General as to the four core business areas (Customs, energy and alcohol, tobaccos and games) for trade associations and the relevant stakeholders.
Communiqués drafted by the central technical customs directorates in the above specified core business areas; and
All information regarding the opening times of the customs offices linked to the current state of emergency.
8. National Revenue Administration of Poland 23 march 2020
Recently, almost 5000 liters of confiscated alcohol have been donated by the National Revenue Administration of Poland (KAS) to be used to produce disinfectants to support the fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
In face of the threat of COVID-19 and thanks to the early measures undertaken by the National Revenue Administration together with the legal system in Poland, the alcohol originally intended to be destroyed after being confiscated as part of criminal investigations, was donated for the preparation of disinfectants for objects, surfaces, rooms and means of transport.
The confiscated alcohol was donated to hospitals, the state fire service, emergency services and health care facilities.
The Silesian Revenue Administration Regional Office donated almost 1000 liters of contaminated and uncontaminated alcohol to the voivodship sanitary epidemiological station in Katowice.
The Revenue Administration Regional Office in Olsztyn donated 1500 liters of spirits to two hospitals. Previously, 1000 liters of alcohol was donated to the state fire service in Olsztyn.
9. Customs Administration of Serbia 23 March 2020
State of emergency has been declared in the Republic of Serbia and entered into force following its publication in the “Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia” number 29/2020 on 15 March 2020. Furthermore, the Government of the Republic of Serbia has passed a series of decisions prescribing preventive measures to halt the spread of COVID-19, which the Customs authorities of the Republic of Serbia, within their competence, are also obliged to implement while conducting certain customs procedures closely defined in the provisions of the Customs Law, Regulation on customs procedures and customs formalities (“Official Gazette of the RS” number 39/19 and 8/20), as well as other regulations providing for the competence of the Customs authority in treatment of goods (depending on type of goods). At this moment, having in mind that the amendments to the decisions of the Government of the Republic of Serbia concerned are made on a daily basis, as well as new decisions based thereon, the Customs Administration, from its scope of work, points out following regulations: – Decision on proclaiming COVID-19 disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus as infectious disease (“Official Gazette of the RS|”, Nos. 23/20…35/20) – Decision on closing border crossing points (“Official Gazette of the RS|”, Nos. 25/20…35/20) – Decision on medicine export ban (“Official Gazette of the RS”, No. 28/2020) – Decision amending Decision on medicine export ban (“Official Gazette of the RS”, No.33/2020)
On March 14, 2020, the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted a Decision imposing a temporary ban on the export of basic products of importance to the citizens in order to prevent a critical shortage of these products (“Official Gazette of the RS” No 28/20, 33/20, 37/20, 39/20 and 41/20). The aim is to mitigate the consequences of shortages resulting from the population’s need for increased supply caused by the spread of COVID-19. This Decision includes, inter alia, tariff codes for personal protective equipment PPE) such as protective masks, gloves, garments, spectacles etc. The Decision has been amended several times to fulfill the needs of domestic market. (link http://www.pravno-informacionisistem.rs/SlGlasnikPortal/eli/rep/sgrs/vlada/odluka/2020/28/2/reg
In this regard, we enclose a list of currently open Border Customs Posts and Units, as well as Administrative Boundary Line Customs Units, for trading in goods. To ensure a uniform implementation, the Customs Administration of Serbia notifies all customs organizational units on the content of all decisions passed by the Government of the Republic of Serbia with aim to halt the spread of COVID-19, while directing the customs officers to carry out required co-operation with other competent authorities at the border crossing points and administrative boundary lines in order to efficiently enforce the measures provided for in the aforementioned decisions.
Hereby, we would like to point out that the measures passed by the Government of the Republic of Serbia are updated and amended almost on a daily basis depending on the situation. Nevertheless, all the measures related to trade in goods are followed and implemented by the Customs authorities.
10. Financial Directorate of the Slovak Republic 25 March 2020
Financial Administration of the Slovak republic adopted on 16th of March 2020 the following measures:
obligation for all employees to wear a mask or other protective equipment (shawl, scarf, etc.);
prohibition of clients entering offices without a mask or other means of protection;
introduction of temporary regime of service, enabling home office when its applicable;
compulsory quarantine for all employees and persons living in the same household for 14 days after returning from abroad, in this case, the obligation to contact the doctor by telephone and then to notify the employer;
obligation to wash hands or use an alcohol-based hand disinfectant especially after handling client documents;
prohibition of clients entering the office premises outside of the premises reserved for the public (mail room, client center);
recommendation to use telephone, electronic and written communications preferably, except in justified cases;
to conduct personal meetings at the offices only in exceptional cases, in agreement with the client, in the designated areas;
consider the use of disposable gloves when handling documents and documents from citizens and, after work, re-wash hands in the prescribed manner;
to regulate the number of clients in client centers;
to prohibit the entry of clients with symptoms of respiratory diseases to the workplaces;
restrict the entry of clients with children to financial administration workplaces;
keep a minimum distance of two meters between the negotiators during personal meetings if the workplace does not have a protective compartment;
to shorten client handling in personal contact to a maximum of 15 minutes;
recommendation to all employees to restrict private journeys to coronavirus-confirmed countries;
ordering that the place of stay of employees must be known when applying for a leave from work;
calls for frequent ventilation of the offices and other premises;
cancelling all educational activities;
cancelling the participation on foreign business trips with immediate effect and prohibits the reception of foreign delegations;
in the case of care for a child under the age of 10, because the childcare institution or school has been closed pursuant to the regulations of the competent authorities, absence of employees will be justified. Please find attached bellow useful links to our national Authorities concerning the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak:
Public Health Authority of the Slovak Republic http://www.uvzsr.sk/en/
Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic https://www.mzv.sk/web/en/covid-19
IOM Migration Information Centre, Slovak Republic https://www.mic.iom.sk/en/news/637-covid-19-measures.html
Financial Administration https://www.financnasprava.sk/en/homepage