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Wearing face masks in pharmacies becomes compulsory in Scotland

As of this week, wearing a face covering will be mandatory for customers in shops in Scotland – including community pharmacies – the Scottish government has announced.

Speaking at a daily coronavirus press briefing last week (July 2), Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said it will be mandatory for members of the public to wear a face covering in shops from July 10.

The public will be required by law to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, such as GP surgeries and pharmacies, “where it is not always possible to maintain a two-metre distance from other people”, the Scottish government said in an update on its website last Friday (June 3).

Exceptions to the rule

Children under the age of five should not use a face covering and “discretion is allowed for people who have a health condition, disabled people and those who need to communicate with a person who has difficulties communicating”, the Scottish government said.

The police in Scotland will enforce the law. Where people over the age of 18 fail to comply with these and other safety measures introduced to reduce contact with other people and slow down the rate of COVID-19 transmission, they will be issued a penalty notice of £60 – which could be reduced to £30 if paid within 28 days.

Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) CEO Harry McQuillan said in a video update last week (July 2) that the organisation understands that the first minister’s announcement “will raise a few issues for pharmacy teams as you consult with and advise patients on symptoms and on an appropriate course of action”.

The CPS team will consider these issues and publish advice on the topic this week, Mr McQuillan said.

“What I would say is that this doesn’t change the current advice of two-metre physical distancing, regular hand and surface cleaning and the wearing of PPE,” he added.

In Wales, the use of non-medical face coverings is recommended in situations where it is difficult to maintain the two-metre social distance. The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) in England is advising people to wear a face covering when they visit a pharmacy. However, while wearing a face covering is compulsory for patients and visitors at hospitals in England, it has not been made a requirement in primary care, including pharmacy.

Last month, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society asked the DH to extend the requirement for patients to wear a face covering in hospitals from June 15 across all primary care settings.

What do you make of this Scottish government annoucement?

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