Face masks should continue to be worn on pharmacy premises, pharmacy bodies have said, despite the recent announcement that masks will no longer be mandatory by mid-July.

At a government briefing yesterday (5 July), Boris Johnson announced the planned final easing of all lockdown measures on 19 July, which he referred to as ‘freedom day.’ As part of this decision, Mr Johnson announced that face masks will no longer be legally required in indoor, public spaces, including retail premises.

Instead, he said there will be ‘guidance’ that will suggest where you might choose to wear a mask.

However, pharmacy bodies have said that pharmacies should be treated differently to retail spaces and that masks should continue to be worn.

Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) England said it will remain ‘vital’ for mask-wearing to continue in pharmacies and other healthcare settings.

‘Covid has not disappeared and the government and employers must ensure that pharmacists and pharmacy teams are protected against the risks it continues to present,’ she said.

‘The use of face masks and social distancing in pharmacies and other healthcare settings should remain alongside increasing ventilation wherever possible.

‘Pharmacists at risk of coming into contact with Covid-positive patients must be fully protected and provided with FFP3 masks when seeing patients.

‘It’s particularly important that community pharmacies are fully recognised by the government and the public as healthcare settings where vulnerable and ill people come to collect their medicines.

‘It is vital that mask-wearing continues by the public and pharmacists in this environment to protect each other,’ she said.

Pharmacies across England had access to government-funded PPE from August 2020 until June of this year.

A spokesperson from the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) told The Pharmacist: ‘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.

‘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.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has been approached for comment.