The European Commission has set out guidance that is relevant EU-wide and also in the UK during the Brexit transitional period (which runs to 31 December 2020) explaining the flexibility allowed under the rules in situations of procurement in extreme urgency. Purchases that are subject to public procurement rules and require tendering of contracts can take too long to complete in the current situation, recognising this the EC and the UK government have published guidance which explains how to comply with the rules where urgent purchases need to be made during the crisis. Under EU guidance “open procedure” or “restricted procedure” can be substantially reduced allowing urgent purchasing to be made in days or even hours.
A “negotiated procedure without publication” can be used only “to cover the gap until more stable solutions can be found,” allowing direct negotiations with potential providers to take place. While the infection curve rises, this is likely to be the most common route for healthcare providers since it allows public buyers to sign contracts within the shortest possible time frame, with no advertising, no time limits, no minimum number of candidates or other procedural requirements. UK guidance is similar to EU guidance but has some additional purchasing routes during the crisis, which are outlined in this article by JDSupra which has more details and links to the documents.