Pharmacists have been advised to protect themselves from the coronavirus by ensuring that patients keep a one-metre distance from the pharmacy counter by, for example, using coloured adhesive tape on the floor, according to the Chamber of Pharmacists.

“The chamber has issued guidelines to pharmacists, who are often forgotten front liners, in readiness for COVID-19 possible contagion and containment as this evolves. As all are aware, we have at present five confirmed cases in Malta,” said chamber president Mary Ann Sant Fournier.

Pharmacies in Malta are generally small and can become crowded in a very short while. Furthermore, many host doctors’ and other clinics.

Pharmacists have thus been advised to ensure a one-metre delineation from the pharmacy counter – in line with internationally accepted guidelines.

“Care should be taken to maintain a distance from persons, especially those exhibiting cold-like symptoms, and crowding at the counter – which regrettably is a day-to-day habit of customers – must be avoided at all costs,” she said.

Patients and clients should be informed by a visible notice that they should not crowd at the counter but approach the pharmacist one by one. In cases of confidential consultations, pharmacists should find ways to ensure confidentiality.

“One way could be to ask the patient to step aside and wait until other persons leave and then consult as usual but respecting the distance,” Sant Fournier said.

A suspected coronavirus-infected patient should be directed to stay at home and call the coronavirus emergency number 111 or their family doctor.

On a general level, hygiene protocols should be strictly adhered to, especially frequent washing of hands using soap and water, appropriate cleaning of surfaces and frequent use of alcohol-based rubs.

Sant Fourier said further notices will be issued according to developments or as directed by the health ministry to avoid contagion and protect pharmacists who she described as “forgotten heroes who have striven for weeks now to give the right information and support the public professionally, allaying their fears and urging them to comply to official directions, sourcing much needed alcohol-based rubs and wipes and maintaining the continuous and timely supply of medicines and other useful products.”

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