Cuba Opens Door to Unlimited Importation of Medical Supplies

Cuba extends duty-free import of medicines, toiletries and food products

For the fourth time in less than two years, Cuban authorities have extended the ruling allowing travelers arriving on the island to bring food, hygiene products, and medicines without any restrictions or charges, until the end of December.

On this occasion, the easing of restrictions also extends to medical supplies, such as adjuncts or equipment.

At a press conference, the Minister of Finance and Prices, Vladimir Regueiro Ale, explained that the regulations from the relevant bodies will soon be published in the Official Gazette. He emphasized the non-commercial nature of this measure, according to the official press.

Regueiro attributed the extension of this measure to the continuing conditions that originally led to its implementation in 2021, among them, the shortage of food and other goods in the domestic market.

The official blamed the island’s scarcity on the U.S. embargo and the worsening of the global economic crisis.

The tariff benefit that allows the non-commercial importation of food, hygiene products, and medicines, without any value limits and free from customs duties, through passengers as accompanied luggage, will continue to be maintained in the current context.

This time, the easing goes further, allowing the importation of medical inputs, expanding possibilities to medicine adjuncts, which could be devices or equipment related to the treatment of bedridden patients.

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This decision allows the entry into the country of a large number of health products that are in high demand and scarce in the public health system.

Considering that Cuban patients are increasingly reliant on the aid of their loved ones abroad, this action will provide some relief to chronic patients and individuals confined to their beds.

However, it presents a challenge for hospital services, where social disparities will become more evident.

During the press conference, Dagmara Cejas Bernet, director of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Public Health, urged citizens to import responsibly, as the excessive use of these products could pose dangers.

According to the national press, the recent publication of the regulation in the Gazette includes other health care related items that are not subject to technical and medical regulations, but that have received specific approvals for quality control from the Center for the State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices.

Despite this, some limitations still remain. Cejas Bernet emphasized that there is control over the importation of certain medicines that can have effects comparable to drugs.

The exemptions to import food and medicine for non-commercial purposes were put into effect following protests against the government in July 2021.

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These provisions, renewed every six months, have also been criticized for only benefiting those citizens with the means to travel abroad or with emigrated relatives.

However, it has been observed that many of the products brought in by this method end up in the unofficial trade networks.

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