The European Commission has decided to create a strategic “rescEU” stockpile of medical equipment such as ventilators and protective masks to help EU countries cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Announcing the move, commission president 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.”
The medical equipment part of the stockpile will include intensive care medical equipment such as ventilators; personal protective equipment such as reusable masks and laboratory supplies.
Also commenting, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, 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 Coronavirus. Our plan is to move ahead without delay.”
Lenarčič added that the stockpile will be used to support EU Member States that are facing shortages of equipment needed to treat infected patients as well as for protecting health care workers.
Meanwhile, EU transport ministers together with the Commission have agreed to join forces to minimise traffic disruptions, especially for essential freight. They say the transport sector is being severely affected by a wide range of national measures aimed at containing the pandemic.
Oleg Butković, representing the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU, stressed the need to focus on containing the spread of the virus.
The Sea, Transport and Infrastructure minister also highlighted the importance of “finding solutions” for the financial obligations of businesses and transport operators, adding that “it is our duty to keep the EU transport sector alive.”
He said, “There is a clear commitment to coordinate and work better together. Member States need to continue to share national measures and also report on the most effective measures. It is important to find solutions for the financial obligations of the businesses and transport operators.
“We need to give companies the financial margins they need to survive the crucial period, while avoiding that one company’s solution becomes another company’s problem.
"With the first ever common European reserve of emergency medical equipment we put EU solidarity into action" European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
He added that national capitals had agreed on the importance of keeping freight moving across EU internal borders and on ensuring, “that essential goods and medical supplies reach our citizens.”
Elsewhere, BusinessEurope's president Pierre Gattaz said that "the commitment made to do whatever it takes to address the significant crisis we are facing through a coordinated EU response is welcomed by the European business community".
Gattaz said, “17 Member states across the EU are already taking important action, particularly to maintain companies' cash flow, and it is clear that this will be supported at EU level by a range of essential actions: drawing on the full flexibility of the Stability and Growth Pact, special measures to release EU funds, and co-ordinated action.
He added, "Ensuring that all businesses with viable business models survive this crisis will undoubtedly require further measures in the weeks and months ahead.
“BusinessEurope and our member federations will continue to work closely with governments and the EU institutions to deliver whatever measures are needed. Europe will only meet the challenge of COVID-19 with our vital business ecosystem intact and ready to drive the recovery and this will require that we act in a spirit of solidarity", Gattaz said.
The latest "casualty" of the virus is the EU summit scheduled for 26-27 March which has been postponed to a later date.
EU leaders agreed that they will hold another video conference next week on the COVID-19 outbreak.