EU emergency export controls on personal protective equipment (PPE) are being relaxed.

Demand for the kit had outstripped demand following the outbreak of the coronavirus and the European Commission restricted exports last month.

Now fresh regulations are being drafted which will only restrict the export of protective masks. The European Commission believes there is currently sufficient supply of all other PPE to protect the health of Europeans. The new restrictions will run for 30 days from 26 April 2020.

In the “spirit of international solidarity” the new scheme requires member states to authorise exports of emergency supplies that are for humanitarian aid and to process the relevant applications quickly.

The Commission had previously published emergency legislation banning the export of face masks, gloves, visors and other PPE outside of the EU for six weeks without prior authorisation. Those restrictions have been in place since 14 March 2020.  Guidance from the Commission on the export control measures confirmed that the restrictions did not apply to trade with the UK.

The existing restrictions also do not apply to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, overseas countries and territories of EU member states. The Faroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino and the Vatican City are currently exempt from the prior authorisation requirement too.

The list of countries outside the restrictions will be extended on 26 April 2020 to include the Western Balkans and Gibraltar.

Stacy Keen of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "The new scheme requires member states to consult with the European Commission when assessing whether to issue an export authorisation.  It is hoped this will help the Commission as it tries to match supply and demand and respond to any request within 48 hours. A clearing house has been set up to coordinate efforts to match supply and demand in the EU, ensuring that the equipment goes where it is most needed."