COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease. Everyone is responsible for reducing the spread and must take simple precautions. You must protect yourself and those around you.
All EU Member States are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. You can find information specific to your country by consulting the national coronavirus response websites.
The Commission’s top priorities are safeguarding the health and well-being of our citizens and using all of the tools at its disposal. This is why it is taking all necessary steps to coordinate with Member States and to facilitate the supply of protective and medical equipment across Europe.
EU vaccines strategy
On 17 June, the European Commission presented a European strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of vaccines against COVID-19. An effective and safe vaccine against the virus is our best bet to achieve a permanent solution to the pandemic. Time is of the essence. Every month gained in finding such a vaccine saves lives, livelihoods and billions of euros.
Vaccine development is a complex and lengthy process, which normally takes around 10 years. With this new strategy, the Commission will support efforts and accelerate the development and availability of safe and effective vaccines in a timeframe between 12 and 18 months, if not earlier. Delivering on this complex undertaking requires running clinical trials in parallel with investing in production capacity to be able to produce millions, or even billions, of doses of a successful vaccine. The Commission is fully mobilised to support the efforts of vaccine developers in their endeavour.
For example, CureVac - an innovative vaccines company developing a promising RNA-based vaccine against the coronavirus – entered into a €75 million loan agreement to support the company’s ongoing efforts to expand its existing certified production capabilities and accelerate the completion of its fourth production site in Tübingen, Germany. The European Investment Bank has supported 13 companies with total lending of €316 million for developing cures, vaccines and diagnostics against various infectious diseases, most prominently against the coronavirus.
Companies with a promising vaccine candidate, already in or close to starting clinical trials, are invited to contact the Commission at EC-VACCINES@ec.europa.eu
The Emergency Support Instrument provides support to help Member States in their efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides a broad EU tool-box to respond to needs which can be best addressed in a strategic, coordinated manner at European level. As a financing arm of the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures, the instrument helps mitigate the immediate consequences of the pandemic and anticipate the needs related to the exit and recovery.
The Emergency Support Instrument is based on the principle of solidarity and pools efforts and resources to quickly address shared strategic needs. It is a complementary instrument: the Emergency Support Instrument intervenes on top of the efforts made under rescEU and the Joint Procurement Agreement, or under other initiatives at national or EU level.
Ensuring the availability of supplies and equipment
Public procurement of medical and protective equipment
Personal protective equipment – masks, gloves, goggles, face-shields, and coveralls – as well as medical ventilators and testing kits are vital for hospitals, healthcare professionals, patients, field workers and civil protection authorities. The voluntary Joint Procurement Agreement for medical equipment enables the joint purchase of such equipment and supplies. The Agreement is now signed by 37 countries, including all EU and EEA countries, as well as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo*. (*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.)
The Commission launched five calls for tenders for the supply of medical countermeasures on 28 February (gloves and coveralls), 17 March (goggles, face shields and masks, as well as ventilators), 19 March (laboratory equipment, including testing kits) and 17 June (ICU medicines) - with participation of up to 26 countries. These initiatives are proving successful. Framework contracts have been signed and Member States can place orders for:
- Personal protective equipment (coveralls, gloves, googles, face-shields and masks);
- Laboratory equipment (kits, reagents, hardware).
When conducting joint procurements, the European Commission has a coordinating role, while the Member States purchase the goods.
|Items||EU countries||Available since||Companies||
(over 12 months)
|Gloves and coveralls||20||8 April||2||Several million coveralls||97 million||Countries have placed orders|
|Eye and respiratory protection||25||2 April||4||
20 million goggles
12 million face shields
37 million FFP2
26 million FFP3
301 million masks
|1,4 billion||Countries have placed orders|
|1,4 billion||Countries have placed orders|
|Laboratory equipment||20||7 May||9||(29 different lots)||350 million||Countries have placed orders|
Guidance on using the public procurement framework
On 1 April, the European Commission published guidance on how to use all the flexibilities offered by the EU public procurement framework in the emergency situation related to the coronavirus outbreak. The guidance provides an overview of the tendering procedures available to public buyers, applicable deadlines, and examples of how public buyers could find alternative solutions and ways of engaging with the market to supply much needed medical supplies. This guidance makes it easier for public buyers to supply vital protective equipment and medical supplies to those in need, by making it easier to conduct public procurements while still upholding high safety and quality standards.
Increasing European production capacities
To address the coronavirus outbreak, manufacturers in Europe and the European Commission must collaborate to massively ramp-up overall production of personal protective equipment. The Commission and the European Standardisation Organisations agreed on 20 March that all the relevant European harmonised standards will exceptionally be made freely and fully available for all interested companies. This action will help both EU and third-country companies to manufacture these items without compromising on our health and safety standards and without undue delays.
On 24 March, the Commission adopted decisions on revised harmonised standards that will allow manufacturers to place on the market high performing devices to protect patients, health care professionals and citizens in general. The revised standards play a pivotal role because they relate to critical devices such as medical facemasks, surgical drapes, gowns and suits, washer-disinfectors or sterilization.
The harmonised standards will cover equipment such as medical facemasks, personal eye protection, medical gloves, protective clothing as well as respiratory protective devices.
On 30 March, the Commission announced that it will be making guidance available in 3 areas to assist manufacturers in increasing the output of essential medical equipment and material: the production of personal protective equipment such as masks, leave-on hand cleaners and hand disinfectants and 3D printing. Guidance on medical devices in the coronavirus context was published on 3 April. These documents can assist manufacturers and market surveillance authorities in ensuring that these products are effective and comply with necessary safety standards.
Availability of medical equipment
On 23 April the Council and the European Parliament adopted the postponement by one year of the application of the Medical Devices Regulation, to allow health institutions and economic operators in Member States to prioritise the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, whilst continuing to ensure patient health and safety until the new legislation enters into force.
Ensuring high-quality coronavirus testing
On 15 April the Commission adopted Guidelines on coronavirus test methodologies, to support Member States in their national containment strategies. In the absence of a vaccine, safe and reliable testing is the key method to ensure the collection of reliable data, aimed at minimising risk and basing decision-making on scientific evidence. Large-scale testing and antibody detection are necessary in monitoring the coronavirus progression. The Guidelines set the standards for testing kits quality, and map out further steps, such as the setup of a network of coronavirus reference laboratories, the fight against counterfeit devices and the coordination of supply and demand, and fair distribution. Find out more on the current performance of COVID-19 test methods.
Availability of medicines
On 8 April the Commission called on Member States to ensure that Europeans have access to necessary and affordable medicines during the coronavirus outbreak, whilst protecting public health and preserving the integrity of the Single Market. The Commission issued guidelines to ensure the rational supply, facilitation of transport, allocation and use of vital medicines and prevent any shortages
Matching demand with supply for medical equipment
The Commission has set up a ‘clearing house for medical equipment’, for a period of 6 months, that facilitates the identification of available supplies, including testing kits, and accelerates their matching with demand by the Member States. The Commission has contacts with hundreds of companies specialised in the production of medical devices and personal protective equipment including ventilators who have confirmed their intention to increase, or already have increased, their production to meet demand. Where necessary, the clearing house will match these proposals with Member States’ needs and demands, and mediate technical or regulatory obstacles or bottlenecks in supply chains to ensure the swift delivery of this equipment. Find out more on the Commission Clearing House for medical equipment.
Stockpiling and distributing supplies and equipment
On 19 March, as an additional safety net, the Commission proposed creating a strategic RescEU stockpiling – a common European reserve - of medical equipment such as ventilators, personal protective equipment, reusable masks, vaccines and therapeutics and laboratory supplies. The Commission will finance 100% of the costs of the stockpiling and will manage the distribution of the equipment to ensure it goes where it is needed most.
A first delivery of some 90,000 protective masks coming from the strategic rescEU distribution centre in Romania has safely arrived in Italy on 27 April. This delivery comes in addition to teams of doctors and nurses, and stocks of equipment that have been sent bilaterally and via the EU civil protection mechanism. RescEU is now fully up and running.
Already on 15 March, the Commission took steps to secure the availability of personal protective equipment, by requiring exports of such equipment destined for outside the European Union to be subject to an export authorisation by Member States. On 19 March, the Commission approved guidance (accompanied by an annex) on how to implement these measures. As a result, almost all Member States have lifted by now national export restrictions and the protective equipment can be delivered seamlessly across the Union to where it is most needed.
The Commission has decided to exempt Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland (countries part of the European Free Trade Association) from the export authorisation requirements. Similar exemptions have been granted to Andorra, the Faroe Islands, San Marino and the Vatican, as well as the associated countries and territories that have special relations with Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (so-called Annex II countries).
On 24 April the Commission adjusted the export authorisation scheme for personal protective equipment to current needs. It reduces the list of products requiring export authorisation for masks, spectacles and protective garments, extends the geographical exception to include the Western Balkans, and requires Member States to swiftly grant authorisations for exports for humanitarian purposes. The measures remain temporary, for a duration of 30 days, and will be notified on 24 April to the World Trade Organisation partners.
Temporarily lifting customs duties and VAT on imports
The Commission has decided to approve requests from all Member States and the UK to temporarily waive customs duties and VAT on the import of medical devices, and protective equipment, from third countries. This will make it easier financially to get the medical equipment that doctors, nurses and patients desperately need. The Commission also published specialised guidance to ease the work of Member State customs authorities, and other relevant stakeholders, when dealing with customs procedures, e.g. minimising formalities on the import of human organs and bone marrow destined for transplant in the EU or various payment facilities for handling customs debt or proving preferential origin of goods.
Supporting Member States in need and cross-border health cooperation
The European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre plays a key role in relief efforts and stands ready 24/7 to assist all countries, in Europe and beyond, that request specific support. This can take the form of co-financing of transport assistance, including personal protective equipment and other support such as the provision of expertise.
In addition, on 2 April the Commission adopted Guidelines on cross-border healthcare cooperation between national, regional and local authorities. The aim is to facilitate the transfer of patients from one Member State to another, help qualified medical personnel to offer their assistance in other Member States and relieve the burden that the current outbreak has placed on national health systems. The Guidelines provide for arrangements for patient mobility across borders, steps for the reimbursement of healthcare costs, and encourage national authorities to use existing bilateral and regional agreements. The requests for cross-border healthcare assistance will be coordinated by the Health Security Committee, chaired by the Commission, and the EU Early Warning and Response System
EU Solidarity for Health Initiative
On 2 April, the European Commission launched the EU Solidarity for Health Initiative, aimed at directly supporting the healthcare systems of EU Member States in combating the coronavirus pandemic. This initiative will provide for around €6 billion to cater for the needs of European health systems. Half of the amount will come from what is left of the EU budget, with the other half coming from additional contributions requested from Member States. The initiative will enable the Commission to purchase emergency support on behalf of Member States and distribute medical supplies, financially support and coordinate transportation of medical equipment and of patients, support the recruitment of additional healthcare workforce and support the construction of mobile field hospitals.
A European Team of coronavirus experts
On 17 March, the European Commission set up an advisory panel on coronavirus composed of 7 expert epidemiologists and virologists from several Member States to formulate science-based EU response guidelines and coordinate risk management measures. The panel, which was created following a mandate by EU Member States, is chaired by Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen and Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for health and food safety. The panel’s agenda and summaries of meetings are available under the ‘meetings tab’ here.
Based on the scientific advice of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and the COVID-19 advisory panel, the European Commission published first recommendations for community measures, for testing strategies on 19 March, and on Health Systems Resilience on 30 March.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is an EU agency that strengthens Europe's defences against infectious diseases.
The ECDC plays a key role in assessing the threat from a scientific viewpoint. It produces rapid risk assessments, provides frequent epidemiological updates and technical support by issuing guidance for how to best respond to the outbreak. This guidance includes, but is not limited to, outbreak surveillance, preparedness and response planning and laboratory support.
The crisis is coordinated at several levels, through video conferences at the level of the European Council, through regular discussions with Health Ministers, to frequent meetings of the Health Security Committee.
These tools support cooperation, the rapid exchange of information, extensive monitoring and coordination of preparedness and response measures to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Notifications regarding serious cross-border health threats are made through Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) – an online platform that is available 24/7. This system allows EU Member States to send alerts about events with the potential impacts on the EU, to share information, and to coordinate their responses.