Pharmacy industry leaders have asked the public to continue to wear masks in pharmacies to protect against the transmission of Covid-19, despite the Government’s recent announcement that face masks are no longer mandatory.

Andrew Lane, chair of the National Pharmacy Association, urged the public to continue to wear masks in pharmacies. He also called on the health minister to make the differing mask-wearing rules for healthcare settings clearer to the public.

‘Sajid Javid has recommended that masks continue to be worn in enclosed, crowded places. It would be helpful if he made an explicit statement about taking precautions in the healthcare settings including community pharmacies,’ he said.

He added: ‘There is currently an acute workforce shortage and we don’t want this to be aggravated by a rise in the transmission of Covid to pharmacy staff and patients’.

Speaking in the Commons yesterday (19 January), Boris Johnson said that he would be dropping all Plan B measures and returning England to Plan A, as he believed that the Omicron wave had now peaked in the UK.

This move will mean people are no longer required to wear face masks in public places, work from home or use mandatory Covid passes for nightclubs and large events.

NHS England confirmed in a primary care bulletin this afternoon that the UK Health Security Agency's infection prevention control (IPC) guidance remains in place for all staff and patients, meaning masks should still be worn in healthcare settings.

Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, also stressed the importance of mask-wearing in pharmacies.

‘We believe the use of face masks and social distancing in pharmacies and other healthcare settings should remain alongside increasing ventilation wherever possible. Covid is airborne and healthcare teams must be provided with ventilation systems to help keep them safe.

‘It’s vital that mask-wearing continues by the public and pharmacists in this environment to protect each other, given that infection rates are still significant across the country,’ she said.

This month, DHSC announced community pharmacies in England will be eligible to receive free personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Government until 31 March 2023.