Wearing a face mask in pharmacies will be mandatory in England from 24 July, the government has announced.

The new rule will apply to all retail premises, including supermarkets. It comes after the government already made face coverings compulsory for all NHS staff, visitors and outpatients in hospitals and on public transport last month.

Until now customers have not had to wear masks inside pharmacies and community pharmacy teams have been advised by Public Health England (PHE) to only wear fluid repellent surgical face masks (FRSM) when they are ‘working in an area with possible or confirmed case(s) and unable to maintain 2 metres social distance.’

‘Fine for failure to comply’

Today in the house of commons, Matt Hancock announced that anyone not wearing face coverings in pharmacies from 24 July risks facing a £100 fine,in line with the sanction applied to public transport.

If people are seen not wearing masks and refuse to comply when asked to wear one, shopkeepers have the right to refuse them entry and to call the police, the health secretary said

However, Mr Hancock said he ‘expects the public to comply with the new rule as they’ve done throughout the pandemic’.

He added that children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt from the rule, as is already the case with public transport.

The health secretary also made reference to the number of sales assistants who had disproportionately suffered from the virus due to more exposure.

At time of writing, the Pharmacist was aware of at least five pharmacy team members who died after contracting Covid-19.