The European Commission sent 30 ventilators from its rescEU stockpile Thursday to the Czech Republic as it struggles with the worst rate of coronavirus infections in Europe.
“Czechia is facing one of the most difficult situations in Europe right now,” as cases are “rising rapidly,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a press release. The country “needs medical equipment to treat patients in hospitals.”
The Commission is talking to other EU countries about sending more ventilators to the Czech Republic, she added.
The Commission expanded the mandate of rescEU earlier this year to allow Brussels to procure items directly, rather than having to go through member countries.
Now, six EU countries – Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Sweden and Romania — host rescEU stockpiles. The EU sent more than 300,000 face masks to the Balkans this summer, but the ventilators are the first batch of major medical equipment sent from the stockpile.
“We have been working around the clock to avoid a repetition of the situation experienced at the end of February, when whole EU was overwhelmed in the fight against the pandemic,” Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič wrote in the release.
During the first coronavirus wave, the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism — of which rescEU is a part — helped send medical teams and face masks among EU countries.