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EU takes measures to regulate distribution of medical supplies in response to Covid-19

On 15 March 2020, Ursula Von Der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, announced a variety of measures regarding the export of medical supplies outside and within the European Union in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A new export authorisation scheme was put in place on 14 March to impose a prior governmental export authorisation in the EU to export protection equipment (including masks) outside the boundaries of the EU (Implementing Regulation 2020/402). This Regulation entered into force on 15 March, for a 6-week period.

With respect to the circulation of medical supplies within the EU, new guidelines encourage the free circulation of goods, especially protective and other medical equipment, within the Single Market (Covid-19 Guidelines for border management measures). These guidelines constitute the European Commission’s response to the lack of medical equipment – in particular masks – and the national restrictions on sales and exports that had recently been imposed by some countries such as France and Germany.

In France, face and anti-projection masks were requisitioned by the French government in two decrees (Decret n°2020-190 du 3 mars 2020 repealed and replaced by Decret n° 2020-247 du 13 mars 2020). A recent ministerial order (Arrêté du 14 mars 2020) also provides that pharmacies are allowed to distribute protection masks free of charge to certain healthcare professionals (dentists, general practitioners, etc.).

In Germany, a decree of 4 March 2020 (Anordnung von Beschränkungen im Außenwirtschaftsverkehr mit bestimmten Gütern vom 4. März 2020) on restrictions in foreign trade was repealed and replaced by a decree of 12 March 2020 (Anordnung von Beschränkungen im Außenwirtschaftsverkehr mit bestimmten Gütern vom 12. März 2020). Unlike in France, this export ban covers the export of not only respiratory masks but also protective gloves, suits, goggles.

As a consequence of the  EU action, both countries are expected to adopt revised provisions in the coming days in order to allow for more solidarity between Member States. As an example, Spain closed its borders but the closure is not supposed to affect the transport of goods, and in particular medical supplies.

This article was co-authored by Alexandra Lauré and Emmanuelle Maisonnial.