Pharmacy team members in England who wear the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) will not be considered to have come into contact with someone infected with Covid-19 and will not have to self-isolate, the Department of Health has said.
Last week, the UK government launched its ‘test and trace’ service, introduced to limit the spread of Covid-19 by getting in touch with people who have come into contact with a potential infection.
A person who has come into contact with a potentially infected person will receive a text, phone call or email from the government advising them to stay home and isolate for 14 days and get tested for the virus.
But the DH has told the Pharmacist that pharmacy team members who wear correct PPE will be exempt from the service: ‘If pharmacy team members are using the correct PPE that wouldn't count as a self-isolation situation.’
However, if a member of staff comes into contact with someone outside of work, or when they are not wearing correct PPE, they would have to self-isolate, a DH spokesperson confirmed.
If a co-worker has been confirmed as having Covid-19, it would be up for the contract tracer to decide if other team members need to self-isolate, the spokesperson said. ‘It would depend on how much contact they had with the co-worker’, and also ‘whether they used appropriate PPE around them.’
This comes after The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) expressed their concern around the ‘potential implications around pharmacy teams having to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.’
Some pharmacy team members have expressed similar concerns over having to potentially shut entire pharmacies down if one member of staff receives a text or starts showing symptoms.
According to government guidance, pharmacy teams should 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.'
However, pharmacy teams have struggled to obtain continual supplies of PPE throughout the pandemic, due to high demand for the products worldwide.
Since April, after PHE's PPE stockpile ran dry, the price of protective face masks at wholesalers have risen dramatically. Boxes of the government-recommended fluid repellent face masks supplied by pharmacy wholesalers increasing in price by as much as 387.5% in some cases.
Last week, it was announced that community pharmacy will miss out on the government’s latest personal protective equipment (PPE) supply arrangement after it was decided that the sector will not be given access to the next rollout phase of the new PPE Portal.
As it stands, the advice to stay at home and isolate is only guidance, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs on the House of Common liaison committee that the Government ‘will consider bringing in financial sanctions’ if people don’t follow advice to stay at home.
The new strategy is also planned to include a Covid-19 contract tracing app, which is currently being trailed on the Isle of Wight, and is designed to let people know if they have been in close contact with someone who has the virus. It is expected to be launched across England in the ‘coming weeks.’