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RPS: ‘Vital’ that mask wearing continues in pharmacies beyond July 19

It is “vital” that staff and patients continue to wear face masks in pharmacies beyond July 19 when the legal requirement to do so is lifted, the RPS has stressed.

In a press briefing last night (July 5), Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government will end the one-metre plus rule on social distancing, and the legal obligation to wear a face covering after July 19, which is now set as a tentative start date to “step four” on the roadmap out of lockdown.

A final decision on whether COVID-19 restrictions will be loosened will be made on July 12, Mr Johnson added.

Mask wearing will still be preferable in certain situations, “especially when cases are rising, and where you come into contact with people you don't normally meet in enclosed places, such as obviously crowded public transport”, he said.

However, he did not explicitly mention pharmacies or other healthcare settings.

Thorrun Govind, chair of RPS England, stressed that the use of face masks and social distancing in pharmacies and other healthcare settings should remain alongside increasing ventilation “wherever possible”.

“Pharmacists and the teams they work with have been on the frontline of healthcare throughout the pandemic. They must be provided with the support and protection they deserve as we move into the next phase of loosening restrictions in England,” she said.

“Pharmacists at risk of coming into contact with COVID-19 positive patients must be fully protected and provided with FFP3 masks when seeing patients,” Ms Govind added.

According to research from the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) NHS Foundation Trust, wearing FFP3 masks can provide up to 100% protection from COVID-19.

Finally, Ms Govind urged the government and the public to recognise community pharmacies as healthcare settings “where vulnerable and ill people come to collect their medicines” and act accordingly.

“It’s vital that mask wearing continues by the public and pharmacists in this environment to protect each other,” she said.

NPA: Pharmacies are “not merely retail outlets”

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) echoed Ms Govind’s sentiment and said that pharmacies are “not merely retail outlets”.

“We will be consulting with NPA members about how they plan to approach this critical moment and what support they might need from us to balance risks, maintain staff safety and handle the expectations of patients in their pharmacies,” a spokesperson told C+D.

“As we work this through with our members, we are conscious that pharmacies are clinical environments, not merely retail outlets, and this implies a certain level of caution,” they added.

Will you be asking staff and patients to continue to wear masks beyond July 19?

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