The European Union and its member states are working around the clock to fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Protecting the health and safety of our citizens is the EU’s top priority. In addition, the EU and its member states are taking resolute action to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the outbreak and sustain jobs. The EU is mobilising all resources available to help member states coordinate their national responses, and this includes providing objective information about the spread of the virus and effective efforts to contain it.
EU leaders have agreed on a number of priorities to coordinate the EU’s response to COVID-19:
- limiting the spread of the virus
- ensuring the provision of medical equipment
- boosting research for treatments and vaccines
- supporting jobs, businesses and the economy
They also agreed to step up their efforts to ensure that EU citizens stranded in third countries who want to go home can do so.
Limiting the spread of the virus
The EU and its member states have taken action to contain and slow down the spread of the virus. The EU has agreed on a coordinated temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU. Member States and non-EU Schengen countries have been invited to extend these temporary restrictions until 15 May.
The EU institutions are facilitating continuous contact and coordination between national ministries and authorities to develop concrete EU response measures. This includes the gradual lifting of containment measures, with a view to entering the recovery phase and revitalising our societies and economies.
The overall effort is supported by science-based and coordinated risk management measures. These follow guidelines formulated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and an advisory panel of epidemiologists and virologists set up by the European Commission.
Ensuring provision of medical equipment
The EU is working together with its member states and industry to ensure that adequate protective equipment and medical supplies are available across Europe. To facilitate the accelerated matching of supply and demand of medical equipment at EU level, a COVID-19 Clearing House has been established.
The EU has launched four joint public procurement procedures for face masks and other personal protective equipment:
- 28 February 2020 – call for gloves and surgical gowns
- 17 March 2020 – two calls, the first covering face masks, gloves, goggles, face-shields, surgical masks and overalls, and the second for ventilators
- 19 March – call for testing kits
Increasing production of personal protective equipment
The EU is discussing with industry how to convert production lines to supply more equipment. For example, textile manufacturers may be able to produce masks. Manufacturers have been provided with guidance on how to increase production in three areas: masks and other personal protective equipment, hand sanitisers and disinfectants, and 3D printing.
The EU has regulated exports of personal protective equipment outside the EU to ensure adequate supply in all member states.
The EU and member states are working to set up a common European reserve of medical equipment known as the ‘rescEU’ stockpile, which gathers masks and ventilators. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre manages the distribution of the equipment to ensure it goes where it is most needed to treat infected patients, protect healthcare workers and help slow down the spread of the virus.
The EU has harmonised the European standards for medical supplies and made them freely available to speed up an increase in production. This will allow producers to get high-performing devices onto the market more quickly.
Boosting research for treatments and vaccines
The EU is fast-tracking and promoting research on COVID-19 by mobilising:
- €140 million to develop vaccines, new treatments, diagnostic tests and medical systems to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to save lives
- €48.5 million which has already been granted to 18 projects and 140 research teams via the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme
- €164 million for SMEs and startups for innovative solutions to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak via the European Innovation Council accelerator programme
In addition, the EU has offered CureVac, an innovative European vaccine developer, up to €80 million of support through an EU guarantee of a European Investment Bank loan. The company aims to launch clinical testing of a vaccine by June 2020.
Together with several partners, the EU has launched a European COVID-19 data platform for researchers to enable the rapid collection and sharing of data. It also organises a hackathon and will host a global online pledging event to raise funds for research towards a vaccine.
The global coronavirus pandemic requires a global response. The world quickly needs to develop and deploy effective diagnostics, treatments and a vaccine. The European Union and its partners are hosting an international pledging conference starting on Monday 4 May 2020 which aims to raise €7.5 billion in initial funding to kick-start the global cooperation. Read more on Coronavirus Global Response.
Supporting jobs and businesses
The EU and its member states are taking action to minimise the socio-economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak and getting back on a path of sustainable growth.
The EU has put forward a package of €540 billion to support member states. The package consists of three immediate safety nets for workers, businesses and EU countries.
The EU has taken swift action to redirect EU funds to help member states:
- €37 billion from structural funds to support EU countries and their citizens in their fight against the outbreak
- up to €800 million through the EU Solidarity Fund, which has been amended to provide support to member states affected by public health crises like the one caused by COVID-19
- additional €3.1 billion unlocked from the 2020 budget to respond to the COVID-19 crisis
In addition, the EU has also increased flexibility in the use of structural funds. This allows member states to transfer money between different funds and regions to meet their needs in mitigating the social and economic damage of the pandemic. They can also request up to 100% financing from the EU budget for programmes dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The EU adopted specific measures to help certain professions hit hard by the crisis and acted to minimise the effects of the pandemic on the most deprived EU citizens by increasing the reach of the fund for aid to the most deprived.
The EU is applying the full flexibility of EU fiscal rules to help the authorities to support healthcare systems and businesses and to keep people in employment during the crisis. The EU state aid rules have also been relaxed so that governments can provide liquidity to the economy to support citizens and companies, thus saving jobs.
In order to ensure economic continuity, the EU is working with member states to establish priority lanes for transport of goods. This is necessary to maintain the flow of essential goods and services within our internal borders.
The European Investment Bank is offering liquidity support to help hard-hit small and medium-sized enterprises with an emergency support package of up to €40 billion. The European Central Bank has announced a €750 billion pandemic emergency programme for the purchase of private and public securities during the crisis. This comes in addition to the €120 billion programme announced earlier.
The EU is preparing a recovery plan, based on a revamped proposal for the next long-term EU budget (Multiannual Financial Framework). This includes enabling the twin transition towards a greener and digital society, and drawing all lessons from the current crisis for the EU’s preparedness and resilience.
EU solidarity in action
Countries, regions and cities across the EU are extending a helping hand to neighbours and those most in need, with donations of protective equipment such as masks, cross-border treatment of patients, and help bringing stranded citizens home. This is European solidarity at its best.
Snapshots of European solidarity:
- France has donated 1 million masks to Italy
- Germany has delivered 7 tons of medical equipment to Italy, including ventilators and anaesthetic masks, helping save lives
- Czechia has delivered 10 000 protective suits and 3D-printed respirators to Italy
- Austria, Germany and Luxembourg are taking in patients from Italy and France
- Poland, Romania and Germany have sent teams of doctors to Italy to help in hospitals
- Half a million of European citizens have been helped to return home from abroad
The EU has also committed to a global response package of €20 billion to support partner countries’ efforts in fighting the pandemic.
As the European Union is doing much more to fight Covid-19 than most people currently know, the European institutions have launched #EuropeansAgainstCovid19. This campaign shows how the European Union is addressing the public health and economic impact of this crisis, and how we can only succeed if we rise to the challenge together – with a European spirit of solidarity and unity.
Fighting disinformation on COVID-19
The EU is stepping up its efforts to fight misinformation and disinformation. Access to authoritative sources for up-to-date information on the COVID-19 outbreak is as important as ever.
The EU is committed to countering disinformation on the virus with transparent, timely and fact-based communication. Trusting in science saves lives.
To counter disinformation, the EU is working closely with online platforms, encouraging them to promote authoritative sources, reduce the visibility of content that is found to be false or misleading, and remove content that could cause physical harm or is illegal.