Coronavirus equipment: The War for Masks and Medicine?

Coronavirus equipment: The War for Masks and Medicine?

New EU Guidelines and Antitrust Guidance

With more than 1,600,000 people infected by the coronavirus (confirmed cases) and just over 100,000 deaths due to the Covid-19 disease all over the world, countries face shortage of medical equipment, and especially masks, even for the medical staff.

This worldwide shortage of coronavirus equipment creates a growing nationalistic perspective of the crisis, even between Member States of the European Union;

To answer this problem, the President of the European Commission announced on April 8, 2020 new european guidelines to optimise the supply and availability of medicines.

New EU Guidelines to support healthcare systems of European countries

The EU Emergency Support Instrument has been activated in order to directly support the healthcare systems of EU Member States. The EU Commission announced that it will mobilise €3 billion from the EU budget (additional contributions from Member States are also expected).

The Commission will be able to purchase and distribute medical supplies (masks, ventilators, and other coronavirus equipment…), co-ordinate the transportation of medical equipment and of patients, and support the contruction of mobile hospitals.

This Emergency Instrument allow the EU to provide a coordinate action with Member States national health authorities and international organisations.

The Commission will provide a targeted support to the EU countries and will adapt its response to the severity of the crisis.

The new Guidelines will “ensure that europeans have access to affordable medicine during this crisis”, according the President of the Commission.

coronavirus equipment - a face mask used in the fight against coronavirus.
A N95 mask costs only $1.25 under normal conditions

Coronavirus equipment Masks and Medicine in Europe: Hijack and forfeiture

A competition to get masks and medicine inside the European Union has prompted some governments to take medical supplies destined for other States.

France has been recently forced to return 4 million of surgical masks the government confiscated while they were on the way to Sweden, knowing that the French President Macron signed a decree that allows the government to requisition all necessary products in the fight against the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus.

The Slovak Prime Minister talked about the difficulty to get face masks: because most of masks are made in China, applications are assessed on a first-come-first-served-basis. And even if your cash is ready, someone still can come and pay more for the shipment and buy if from under you.

In the same vein, Germany complained that the US has committed an act of “modern piracy”, by confiscating 200,000 respirator masks destined for the police officers in Berlin. These mass have been diverted to the US while they were being transferred between planes in Thailand.

The Spanish Foreign Minister also complained that paid-for ventilators had been confiscated by the Turkish authorities.

To fight these unfair practices and remind European countries to work together, the President of the EU Commission has been quite clear about coronavirus equipment:

  • National governments must stop any export bans on medecine
  • The production of medicine must be increased and the Commission will give new flexibility in regulation and facilitating State aid as possible
  • The online sales of medicine that are essential for treating coronavirus patients has to be limited

Do you think the European Commission has enough power to handle the situation?

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Rose Delacquis

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