The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging the capacities of health systems in many countries. National healthcare services have to manage unexpected shortages of healthcare resources that have to be re-allocated according to the principles of fair and ethical prioritisation, in order to maintain the highest levels of care to all patients, ensure the safety of patients and healthcare workers, and save as many lives as possible. Also, cancer care services have to pursue restructuring, following the same evidence-based dispositions. In this article, we propose a guidance to the management of pancreatic cancer during the pandemic, prioritised according to a three-tiered framework, and based on expert clinical judgement and magnitude of benefit expected from specific interventions. Since the availability of resources for diagnostic procedures, surgery and postoperative care, systemic therapy and radiotherapy may differ, the authors have separated the prioritisation analyses. The impact of postponing or abrogating cancer interventions on outcomes according to a high, medium or low priority scale is outlined and discussed. The implementation of healthcare services using telemedicine is explored; it reveals itself as functional and effective for limiting patients’ need to travel to centres and thereby has the potential to reduce diffusion of SARS-CoV-2. Pancreatic cancer demands a considerable amount of medical resources. Therefore, the redefinition of its diagnostic and therapeutic algorithms with a rigorous method is crucial in order to ensure the highest quality of continuum of care in the broader context of the pandemic and the challenged healthcare systems.© Author (s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. Published by BMJ on behalf of the European Society for Medical Oncology.