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Face coverings to become mandatory for visitors to English pharmacies

Staff will be able to deny entry to people refusing to wear a face covering, if they are not exempt
Staff will be able to deny entry to people refusing to wear a face covering, if they are not exempt

Wearing a face covering in shops in England, including pharmacies, will become mandatory for the public from July 24, the government has announced.

Failing to comply with this rule could result in a fine of up to £100, health secretary Matt Hancock said, announcing the measure in parliament today (July 14).

The DH told C+D that, as part of this, wearing a face covering will be mandatory for visitors to community pharmacies.

While children under 11 and people with “certain disabilities” are exempt from this measure – just as on public transport – staff will be able to deny entry to people refusing to wear a face covering “if they are not exempt, and call the police if people refuse to comply”, Mr Hancock said.

He added that fines will be imposed as “a last resort” and the government “fully expect[s] the public to comply with these rules, as they’ve done throughout the pandemic”.

“As we restore shopping, so we must keep our shop keepers safe,” Mr Hancock said, continuing to say that “there is also evidence that face coverings increase confidence in people to shop”.

“We’ve therefore come to the decision that face coverings should be mandatory in shops and supermarkets,” he added.

"Plan and prepare"

The new rule will not come into force until next Friday, July 24, to give people “time to plan and prepare”, and “for retailers to maybe put in place measures to encourage people to do this [wear masks] or potentially have some masks themselves if people haven’t got one,” environment secretary George Eustice told the BBC Breakfast programme today.

“I suspect that now that we’ve made this announcement, a lot of people will start wearing a mask even though it will not be mandatory until [July] 24,” he said.

Explaining why the government has decided to make the wearing of face masks in shops compulsory at this relatively late stage, Mr Eustice said one of the reasons was the change in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) stance on face coverings.  

It was only in June that the WHO started advising people to wear a face covering “when out and about, because it could prevent the onward transmission, so we changed our guidance to that point”, Mr Eustice said.

People are not currently required to wear a face covering when visiting pharmacies, although the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) has been advising the public to wear one in enclosed spaces.

Since June 15, it has been mandatory for the public to wear a face covering on public transport and when going to hospital, but not in pharmacies, despite calls from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

The move announced today puts England in line with Scotland, where those visiting pharmacies have been required to wear a face covering since last week (July 10).

23 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of today's announcement?

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Glad I'm retired and out of pharmacy, nightmare even without the covid 19.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

I see a future of increased assaults on pharmacy staff. I also see multiples backing the aggressor customers whilst pharmacists prepare for disciplinaries/tribunals/GPhC visits after their recovery.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Normal day at the coalface then......

Incidentally, a video exists of my Grandad who was a miner, working underground. I would genuinely rather be doing that than what I'm doing now.

Keith Mitchell, Community pharmacist

I hope you're joking. My dad worked down the mines for 40 years until Thatcher closed them down. He must have spent 6 months of that in A & E. He was trapped underground several times as well. His back and shoulders were covered in black scars where the roof had fallen on him. And all you have to worry about is whether to wear a mask or not. If I were you I'd think before I post my daily rant.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

You have no IDEA of how much I dislike pharmacy. At least down the mine, the people looked out for each other - it wasn't every man for himself and everyone trying to score points off the other. I'm wholly aware of what back breaking, risky work it was - my grandad had his leg smashed and was in a pot for three months (didn't stop him walking to the pub though! - they were made of sterner stuff back then) and a friend was decapitated while riding in a coal truck underground BUT I'm not joking when I say I would still rather be doing that than working in a pharmacy (although to be fair, I am far too old and unfit to work underground) and before you rant back at me, I am not renewing this year. I have FINALLY had enough. The psychological damage, while invisible, is every bit as real as the physical that your dad was forced to endure. Are you actually a pharmacist? I can't believe that you are if you think all we have to worry about is whether to wear a mask or not!

Keith Mitchell, Community pharmacist

Point taken. I was a pharmacist, I "voluntarily removed myself from the register" three years ago. Be warned - it's not a very nice experience. I've worked in hospitals, health centres, had my own business, did a spell as LPC Secretary (and Chair), so I think I have an idea how to do the job. For the last ten (horrible) years of my working life I did locums, with the stupid idea of "giving something back" for all the locums who'd done such a good job for me. The last straw was when a patient came into the pharmacy and asked to see the pharmacist. The assistant called out "Keithy Babes, there's someone to see you", which shows the high esteem in which pharmacists, and especially locums are held. I haven't worked since and don't miss it one bit. 

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I fully intend not to miss it either. I'm sat here at the moment in a dead pharmacy, doing a dead end job which I can't stand any longer. I'll let it run until my registration lapses then that will firmly be that and I will leave the shambles that pharmacy has become without a backward glance and hopefully piece together my shattered sanity! Incidentally, if you go on Youtube and look up 'Nines was standing' that's the film my Grandad is in.

Keith Mitchell, Community pharmacist

Best of luck to you, you won't regret it. Don't expect a gold watch from the G.Ph.C. Also, a word of warning: When you tell the nice lady at the PDA that you won't be renewing she'll congratulate you on your years of excellent service, and then inform you that "dispensing errors can take up to three years to re-surface, so don't relax just yet..."

Leon The Apothecary, Student

However, there is an essential distinction between absence of evidence and evidence of absence. There is also the question of relaxed hygiene measures because of a false sense of security that face coverings provide.

Furthermore, for face covering to be effective, there needs to be a high level of compliance, which we can evidence with Bournemouth beach a few weeks back on how well that particular aspect is going.

It is my hope that people follow this mandated practice and that pharmacies enforce this. Let us remember how badly the virus has affected the UK, and fall not prey to feelings of inconvenience.

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

I'd seen that staff going about their duties do not need to wear a mask.  However I am in as much "danger" from a symptom free but infected staff member as I am from another member of the public.

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

But if wearing a mask distresses me, I don't have to wear it! You couldn't make it up.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Will be difficult for Pharmacists to enforce. Can you imagine the amount of abuse he/she will get? "I'm only coming in to pick up my zopiclone/diazepam/HRT" etc etc

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

This is the crux of it isn't it? Who ENFORCES this law? The police don't want anything to do with it and there's little we can do beyond tutting. I don't fancy trying to tell the six foot seven bodybuilder who thinks he's totally indestructible ('didn't you know all those steroids have lowered your immune system, mate?') that he's got to wait outside. I hope we won't be expected to have masks on tap for every Tom Dick and Harry to put on as they enter as well. Most pharmacies simply couldn't afford that even if they could get hold of them. It's also going to be particularly hard if it gets hot again because frankly, it's bloody horrible wearing a mask when its hot.

I'm reliant on the collective will and withering looks of old ladies to shame people into wearing them I think.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

And that's just the staff! Boom Boom !!!

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

Withering looks of old ladies. Love it!

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I do agree with it but I'm going to LOATHE having to wear one myself all day.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Play devil's advocate like me and just don't wear one. Behind a screen or in a dispensary over 2m away. Don't need one. Absolutely no reliable evidence. Even Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr. Jenny Harries said so in March. Or was that just to stop the ' Bog roll bandits' from clearing the shelves leaving none for NHS staff. Either way, we were either mislead at the start or are being treated as fools now. And don't even get me started on the vaccine they've tested on 45 people in America in the company, that, surprise surprise, as Cilla would say, is funded by Bill Gates! (I apologize for starting to read conspiracy theories on the internet.....but they do make you wonder!)

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Frankly Angela, I could believe any conspiracy theory about Covid you care to mention (except the 5G one - that's plain stupid) because this whole thing just seems so surreal. As for the vaccine, I'm going to treat the Covid one the same way as MMR. If there is something the Government, Illuminati or whatever group you think is SOOOOO desperate for us to have, I'm not having it. What is in these vaccines that is, it seems, essential for the powers that be to have inserted into our bodies? The latest I read the other day (Dr Scurr in the Mail so it HAS to be true.....) is that the MMR gives protection against Covid and all adults should now have it, regardless of whether they've had measles, mumps and rubella in the past! What a load of total bovine faeces!

I think I may go for the middle way - have a mask on but use it as a chin support when I'm not actually at the counter.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Vaccine seems a little too rushed for me. I'll wait till the cabinet and the rest of the MPs have had their vaccination....

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Wonder if BoJo and Hancock will have one even thought they've had the infection?

Caroline ACT, Accuracy checking technician

I totally agree Angela. All this time I've yet to see one supermarket employee wear a mask and they are dealing with people constantly.

Alexander The Great, Community pharmacist

Just shoppers, not staff

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

But if they are wearing a mask to protect us, it would be hypocritical in the extreme for us not to wear one to protect them. Also, how could you ask someone to put a mask on if you're not wearing one yourself?

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