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Coronavirus - EU restricts exports of protective equipment - Europe

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On 15 March 2020 the European Commission published Regulation 2020/402 (“Regulation”), which prohibits unlicensed export from the EU of certain personal and protective equipment. This measure is aimed at securing domestic supply of face masks and medical protective equipment during the COVID-19 crisis. The Regulation is issued under the European Commission’s power, under Regulation 2015/479, to adopt temporary export control measures to prevent or remedy critical situations arising from shortages of essential products.

The Regulation is directly applicable in all EU Member States, which means that it is automatically binding without the requirement for any national implementing measures. It is EU Member State authorities that are responsible for issuing licences of the equipment in question. A licence application form is included in Annex II to the Regulation.

The export restrictions apply from 15 March for a period of 6 weeks and, by 31 March, the Commission must decide whether to adopt longer-term restrictions (which could include e.g. quantitative restrictions).

Products covered by the Regulation

All products listed in Annex I to the Regulation require a licence in order to be exported outside the EU. They include the following product categories: 

  • protective spectacles and visors;
  • face shields;
  • mouth-nose protection equipment;
  • protective garments; and
  • gloves.

A full list of items covered by the export restriction is included in the table below.



CN Codes

Protective spectacles and visors

  • Protection against potentially infectious material
  • Encircling the eyes and surroundings
  • Compatible with different models of filtering facepiece (FFP) masks and facial masks
  • Transparent lens
  • Reusable (can be cleaned and disinfected) or single-use items

ex 9004 90 10

ex 9004 90 90

Face shields

  • Equipment for the protection of the facial area and associated mucous membranes (ex: eyes, nose, mouth) against potentially infectious material
  • Includes a visor of transparent material
  • Usually includes fixations to secure over the face (e.g. bands, temples)
  • Can include a mouth-nose protection equipment as described below
  • Reusable (can be cleaned and disinfected) or disposable

ex 3926 90 97

ex 9020 00 00

Mouth-nose-protection equipment

  • Masks for the protection of the wearer against potentially infectious material and for the protection of the environment against potentially infectious material spread by the wearer
  • Can include a face shield as described above
  • Whether or not equipped with a replaceable filter

ex 6307 90 98

ex 9020 00 00

Protective garments

Garment (e.g. gown, suit) for the protection of the wearer against potentially infectious material and for the protection of the environment against potentially infectious material spread by the wearer

ex 3926 20 00

ex 4015 90 00

ex 6113 00

ex 6114

ex 6210 10 10

6210 10 92

ex 6210 10 98

ex 6210 20 00

ex 6210 30 00

ex 6210 40 00

ex 6210 50 00

ex 6211 32 10

ex 6211 32 90

ex 6211 33 10

ex 6211 33 90

ex 6211 39 00

ex 6211 42 10

ex 6211 42 90

ex 6211 43 10

ex 6211 43 90

ex 6211 49 00

ex 9020 00 00


Gloves for the protection of the wearer against potentially infectious material and for the protection of the environment against potentially infectious material spread by the wearer

ex 3926 20 00

4015 11 00

ex 4015 19 00

ex 6116 10 20

ex 6116 10 80

ex 6216 00 00

Application of the Regulation to the UK

In the context of Brexit, as the UK is currently in a transition period, all EU legislation applies (for the most part) to and in the UK, as it if was a Member State. Pursuant to the Withdrawal Agreement, references to “Member States” in EU law continue to include the UK, and EU law (for the most part) continues to apply in the UK. The UK also continues to participate in the EU Single Market and Customs Union.

Accordingly, the Regulation will have equal force and effect in the UK and exports from the EU-27 to the UK (and vice versa) would not be restricted.


The Regulation comes as no surprise during the COVID-19 crisis which is continuously worsening in Europe. The EU authorities want to ensure that they have sufficient domestic supply of protective equipment, in particular to safeguard medical and emergency workers, as more people are expected to fall ill with the virus in the coming weeks.

The EU measures are introduced alongside similar restrictions implemented by some Member States, such as:

  • Czech Republic prohibited manufacturers, distributors and importers of personal protective equipment from selling certain personal protective equipment (primarily medical masks) other than to the Czech Republic government or to distributors of personal protective equipment that are established in Czech Republic;
  • in France, the government has requisitioned stocks of FFP2 respiratory protection masks held by any public and private legal entities, as well as stocks of surgical masks held by distributors or manufacturers;
  • Germany and Italy have also introduced export restrictions for medical equipment; and
  • Poland has also limited exports and intra-community transfers of medicinal products used against flu, as well masks, injection needles, medical caps, surgical gowns, and  other surgical garments.

Please see our previous briefing on unilateral protectionist measures and the impact of COVID-19 on international trade here.

We are expecting further guidance to be issued imminently by the European Commission on the implementation of the Regulation.