Imports of protective clothing and other protective material for the population (e.g. hygiene masks, disposable gloves, protective gowns), which are intended for the cantons or the Confederation, are duty-free without a licence until further notice.

The conditions for duty-free clearance are

  • Importer is a cantonal or federal agency
  • Other importers have a confirmation from a cantonal or federal office indicating that the goods are intended for a canton or the Confederation.

The value added tax remains due in any case.

Authorisation requirement for the export of medical protective equipment

On March 25, 2020, the Federal Council introduced an authorisation requirement for the export of protective medical equipment. The corresponding amendment to the COVID 19 Ordinance came into force at 00.00 hrs on March 26, 2020. There are exceptions to the licensing requirement for exports to EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members.

With the spread of the coronavirus, the need for protective equipment in Switzerland has increased dramatically. The availability of masks, examination gloves, protective goggles, swabs, etc. in sufficient quantity and quality is an indispensable prerequisite for preventing the further spread of COVID-19 and protecting the health of patients and medical staff. Against this background, the Federal Council decided on March 26, 2020 to introduce a licensing requirement for exports of protective equipment. The few goods concerned are listed in Annex 3 to the ordinance. The measures are largely in line with those adopted by the EU.

A permit from SECO is required for the export of such protective equipment. The authorisation is limited to the export of protective equipment from the Swiss customs territory within the meaning of Art. 3 of the Customs Act (SR 631.0), i.e. including the Principality of Liechtenstein and excluding customs exclusion zones. Import, transit and brokerage are not covered by the licensing requirement. Export applications must be submitted via the electronic export control system ELI.

No licence is required for the export of protective equipment under the following conditions:

  • in so far as reciprocity is guaranteed, to EU Member States, Norway and Iceland, the United Kingdom, the Faroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino and the Vatican City, i.e. if corresponding exports from the above-mentioned states are also not subject to authorisation or are even prohibited for export;
  • by medical, civil protection and civil defence personnel for professional purposes or for first aid;
  • by other persons for their own use, in the case of exports by tourist traffic.

A permit is issued if the need for protective equipment for health care facilities, other medical personnel, patients, civil defence and civil protection, and authorities and organisations for rescue and security in Switzerland is sufficiently covered.

The complete list goods fall under the category of "personal protective equipment" can be found in Annex 3 of the Ordinance, which is based on Annex 1 of the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/402 of the European Commission of March 14, 2020 on the introduction of an obligation to present an export licence when exporting certain products.

According to Annex 3, protective equipment includes protective glasses and visors, face shields, mouth-nose protection, protective clothing and gloves.

Anyone who exports protective equipment without the required SECO licence will be fined. These are infringements analogous to Art. 83 of the Epidemics Act (SR 818.101).