WCO Update: Counterfeit Medical Supplies and Introduction of Export Controls on Personal Protective Equipment

The World Customs Organization (WCO) reminds the general public to exercise extreme caution when purchasing critical medical supplies from unknown sources, particularly online. The use of these goods may cost lives.

While the world is gripped by the fight against COVID-19, criminals have turned this into an opportunity for fraudulent activity. There have been an alarming number of reports quoting seizures of counterfeit critical medical supplies, such as face masks and hand sanitizers, in particular.

Customs and law enforcement agencies in China, Germany, Indonesia, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam, to name but a few, have reported such seizures in the past three weeks. There was a significant increase in seizures of counterfeit and unauthorized face masks and hand sanitizers during Operation Pangea XIII earlier this month. This Operation resulted in the seizure of 37,258 counterfeit medical devices, of which 34,137 were surgical masks.

Online retailers have also announced a surge in sales of counterfeit goods. In one operation, US Customs and Border Protection seized counterfeit COVID-19 test kits which had arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) by mail from the United Kingdom.

Given the shortages and the activities of market speculators, another important trend is the introduction of export licenses for certain categories of critical medical supplies, such as face masks, gloves and protective gear. In particular, on March 11, 2020, Vietnam adopted Decision 868/QD-BYT by the Ministry of Health, introducing export permits for medical masks. The European Union (EU) introduced a temporary export licensing scheme for personal protective equipment as of March 14, 2020 (see Commission implementing Regulation 2020/402). Other countries, such as Brazil, India, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine, have also followed suit.

It’s important to note that any company importing these items into Canada must hold a MDEL with Health Canada (Medical Device Establishment License).

The EU’s dual-use export control regime will also continue to be applied to more sophisticated items such as full-face masks, protective gear, gloves and shoes, specifically designed for dealing with ‘biological agents’. The full list of such items can be found in Annex I to EU Regulation 428/2009, as amended.

The WCO urges its Member Customs administrations to remain vigilant in these difficult times.
Please consult the relevant section of the WCO’s website regarding COVID-19 information, including changes in legislation, new trends and patterns, and initiatives by partners and Member administrations.

For additional information please contact your local Delmar Representative.

Source: WCO

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