The European Commission has announced it has created a strategic ‘rescEU’ stockpile of medical equipment, such as ventilators and protective masks, to help EU countries in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. President Ms Ursula von der Leyen said: “With the first ever common European reserve of emergency medical equipment, we put EU solidarity into action. It will benefit all our member states and all our citizens. Helping one another is the only way forward.”

Medical equipment as part of the stockpile will include items such as:

  • Intensive care medical equipment, such as ventilators.
  • Personal protective equipment, such as reusable masks.
  • Vaccines and therapeutics.
  • Laboratory supplies.

Commissioner for Crisis Management Mr Janez Lenarčič added: “The EU is taking action to get more equipment to member states. We are setting up a rescEU stockpile to rapidly get the supplies needed to fight the coronavirus. It will be used to support member states facing shortages of equipment needed to treat infected patients, protect healthcare workers and help slow the spread of the virus. Our plan is to move ahead without delay.”

The stockpile will be hosted by one or several member states and the hosting state will be responsible for procuring the equipment. The Commission will finance 90 per cent of the stockpile. The Emergency Response Co-ordination Centre will manage the distribution of the equipment to ensure it goes where it is needed most. The initial EU budget of the stockpile is €50 million, of which €40 million is subject to the approval of the budgetary authorities. In addition, under the Joint Procurement Agreement, member states are in the process of purchasing personal protective equipment, respiratory ventilators and items necessary for coronavirus testing. This co-ordinated approach gives member states a strong position when negotiating with the industry on availability and price of medical products, said EU officials.

The measure entered into law on 20 March and the member state wishing to host rescEU stockpiles can apply for a direct grant from the European Commission. The direct grant covers 90 per cent of the costs of the stockpile, while the remaining 10 per cent is borne by the member state. rescEU is part of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which strengthens co-operation between participating states in the field of civil protection, with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. To date, all EU member states participate in the mechanism, as well as Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. Since its inception in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has responded to over 330 requests for assistance inside and outside the EU. 

At time of going to press, EU Brexit negotiator Mr Michel Barnier confirmed via his Twitter account that he has tested positive for Covid-19.