The European Commission (EC) has set out freight guidelines to keep supplies of essential goods flowing as borders shut to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The guidelines aim to address “the challenge of protecting the health of the population whilst avoiding disruptions to … the delivery of goods and essential services across Europe”.
It proposed member states should introduce priority lanes for freight transport, known as ‘green lanes’, to ensure the free circulation of essential goods.
“They [member states] should guarantee the supply chain of essential products such as medicines, medical equipment, essential and perishable food products and livestock. No restriction should be imposed on the circulation of goods in the single market, especially (but not limited to) essential, health-related and perishable goods, notably foodstuffs,” it said.
The EC also introduced a temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union, following a warning from the World Health Organization that the continent is now the “epicentre” of the pandemic.
“Control measures should not undermine the continuity of economic activity and should preserve the operation of supply chains. Unobstructed transport of goods is crucial to maintain availability of goods, in particular of essential goods such as food supplies including livestock, vital medical and protective equipment and supplies,” it added.
President of the EC Ursula von der Leyen said: “Our measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak will be effective only if we coordinate on the European level.
“We have to take exceptional measures to protect the health of our citizens. But let’s make sure goods and essential services continue to flow in our internal market. This is the only way to prevent shortages of medical equipment or food,” she added.
Separately, the UK Department for Transport announced rules on driver hours would be relaxed in order to help supermarket’s fulfil demand for food, cleaning products and medicines.
The new daily driving limit would be extended to 11 hours, from nine hours, while rest periods could be shortened from 11 hours to nine hours. Requirements for daily breaks of 45 minutes after 4.5 hours driving can be replaced with a 45 minute break after 5.5 hours of driving.
The exemption from the rules has been extended to drivers carrying products from distribution centres to stores or fulfilment centres and from manufacturer or supplier to distribution centres or stores.
It has not been extended to drivers delivering goods directly to consumers.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.