The European Commission has been holding its daily news briefings for journalists, and some other meetings, online since March while access has been restricted to many of its buildings, including its Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels.
A Commission spokesman said that the aim now is for a “gradual” re-opening of offices including the Berlaymont, its buildings in Luxembourg and the Joint Research Centre in Italy.
He added, “This, though, will all depend on developments in the various countries and sites we operate. The reopening of offices will depend on how many people can physically be present on our premises.”
“The aim is for a gradual reopening from mid-September but this will depend on tightly controlled health checks. We have to be pragmatic and no decision will be taken until we get closer to the mid-September date.”
He went on, “No matter what happens we will continue with the ‘virtual’ system that is currently in operation.”
Meanwhile, the UK government has urged pharmaceutical firms to have six weeks’ worth of drugs stockpiled, ready for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December. In a letter to medical suppliers, the UK Department of Health said there would be no extension to the transition period.
“The aim is for a gradual reopening from mid-September, but this will depend on tightly-controlled health checks. We have to be pragmatic and no decision will be taken until we get closer to the mid-September date” European Commission spokesman
The department has now written to medicine suppliers about “mitigating any potential disruption to supply into the UK,” including medicines, vaccines, clinical trial supplies and blood and transplant items.
It acknowledged that global supply chains were under pressure because of the Coronavirus crisis but said having reserve stocks would provide a buffer against disruption.
The UK government plea is an indication of the scale of the challenges facing the UK as decades of trade ties start to unwind when it leaves the EU’s single market, customs union and other smooth trading arrangements from the end of the year.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruled out extending the transition period.
The Department of Health letter says, “We recognise that global supply chains are under significant pressure, exacerbated by recent events with COVID-19.”
“However, we encourage companies to make stockpiling a key part of contingency plans, and ask industry, where possible, to stockpile to a target level of six weeks’ total stock on UK soil.”
When asked, a European Commission spokesman declined to comment about the letter, instead telling reporters that the EU had already asked Member States to prepare for a possible second wave of the pandemic.