WCO highlights biosecurity measures to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

09 octobre 2020

At the invitation of the Organization of American States (OAS), the WCO Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa, participated in the “Customs and Border Security, lessons learned and good practices in biosecurity during the pandemic” Webinar. The Webinar’s aim was to provide information on how Customs administrations have helped mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and on measures implemented to protect Customs officers and international traders.

At the start of the event, the OAS Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Nestor Mendez, and WCO Deputy Secretary General Treviño Chapa shared their opening remarks with participants. Ambassador Mendez highlighted the importance of international collaboration, and especially the longstanding cooperation between the OAS and WCO. Deputy Secretary General Treviño referred to Customs’ role during the pandemic in securing flows of essential goods and protecting society against illicit trade.

The WCO’s actions during the pandemic were also highlighted during the panel session, focusing on the establishment of a dedicated COVID-19 webpage where Customs administrations and the general public could find useful information, such as the Harmonized System classification reference for COVID-19 medical supplies and the list of priority medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which were developed jointly with the World Health Organization (WHO). The practices and measures adopted by some 115 WCO Member Customs administrations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were also available to the public on the WCO website.

Many of these practices, once analysed and categorized, were found to address biosecurity risks facing Customs officers. It was pointed out that digitalization of Customs procedures also helped enforce social distancing requirements during outbreaks of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. “Modern Customs administrations should all move towards electronic clearance of goods, single window environments, non-intrusive inspections and risk management based on data analysis,” Deputy Secretary General said.

The panel also benefited from participation by Ms. Claudia Yolanda Abbastante Caceres of the Spanish Revenue Agency, Mr. Terry Brown of the New Zealand Customs Service and Ms. Roberta Andraghetti of the Pan American Health Organization. The intervention by Mr. Arthur Weintraub, Secretary for Multidimensional Security at the OAS, brought the Webinar to a close.