During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to provide high-level care for a large number of patients with COVID-19 has affected resourcing for, and limited the routine care of, all other conditions. The impact of this health emergency is particularly relevant in the rare connective tissue diseases (rCTDs) communities, as discussed in this Perspective article by the multi-stakeholder European Reference Network on Rare and Complex Connective Tissue and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ERN ReCONNET). The clinical, organizational and health economic challenges faced by health-care providers, institutions, patients and their families during the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak have demonstrated the importance of ensuring continuity of care in the management of rCTDs, including adequate diagnostics and monitoring protocols, and highlighted the need for a structured emergency strategy. The vulnerability of patients with rCTDs needs to be taken into account when planning future health policies, in preparation for not only the post-COVID era, but also any possible new health emergencies. © 2021, Springer Nature Limited.