World news wrapup: 7 May 2020

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Backlash after pharmacists left out of life assurance scheme; NZ pharmacies in financial peril; Welsh pharmacy calls police on English patient

UK: Following outrage that pharmacists were not automatically included in a COVID-19 life assurance scheme, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now confirmed that pharmacists working in the community would indeed be included, Pharmacy Network News reports.

The Pharmaceutical Journal and other pharmacy media had reported that the scheme, for frontline workers who die from COVID-19 as a result of their work, would pay £60,000 (AUD$11,5763) to the families of eligible workers.

The UK has lost three pharmacists to date to the disease: Mehool Patel, Pooja Sharma and Jayesh Bhanubhai Patel.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society called for the scheme to apply to all pharmacists.

“We know that pharmacies are seeing a huge surge in demand as one of the few places keeping their doors open to the public.

“People may not display symptoms of COVID-19, and so it’s hard to see why the scheme should be limited to health and care environments where the virus is ‘known to be present’,” said RPS President Sandra Gidley.

“We know that the vast majority of frontline pharmacy teams can’t maintain social distancing from staff or patients and aren’t always able to access the PPE they need.

“We have contacted the governments in England, Scotland and Wales asking them to clarify this scheme will extend to all pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and support staff.”

Mr Hancock has since clarified that while the scheme will operate slightly differently for pharmacists, they are “of course covered”.

Chair of the RPS in England, Professor Claire Anderson, said, “We should never have had to have this battle, which has demoralised many in our profession”.


Gisborne, New Zealand: Pharmacies in the Gisborne community on New Zealand’s North Island say the sector has been badly impacted by the country’s strong lockdown laws and are asking for help.

The Gisborne Herald reports that one pharmacist’s retail sales had dropped by more than 40%, and that both GPs and pharmacy workers were at risk of losing their jobs.

Pharmacies in the area were represented by pharmacist Sean Shivnan, who said that stores had borne the cost of security measures while at the same time their prescription and retail sales had plunged.

He said the sector needed support, particularly given how badly needed it is by the community, and called on the Ministry of Health to help.

He agreed with previous comments by Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand chief executive Andrew Gaudin to the cross-party Epidemic Response Committee that pharmacy had already been suffering in New Zealand when COVID-19 hit, and the pandemic had exacerbated these problems.

Mr Shivnan also called for the removal of the NZ$5 (AUD$4.70) fee for scripts, a cost which is collected by pharmacies for the Government.

“It created equity and access issues especially in areas of high deprivation such as Tairawhiti and even more so during the Covid-19 pandemic where people had reduced income or had lost their jobs,” he said

“The Government, especially this Government, needs to remove it. It has to go.”


Malta: Malta’s Chamber of Pharmacists has complained at an announcement by Economy Minister Silvio Schembri that the retail price of face masks would be capped at 95c and face shields at €5 (AUD$8.40).

Representatives of the Chamber reportedly told the Times of Malta that selling the masks at this price would mean stores would make a loss on the items, given pharmacies had already purchased stock at a higher price.

The pharmacists said that the pricing had already been set by wholesalers, not pharmacists.

“As always, the government has put everyone in the same basket, and this is not acceptable,” the Chamber said. 

Malta is about to start loosening its lockdown laws, but as part of this will require all shop assistants and people visiting stores to wear masks.


Gwynedd, Wales: The Daily Post has reported on the case of a pharmacy which called police after an English GP practice asked it to dispense medicines for a patient who was in North Wales on holiday.

Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Liz Saville Roberts reported the news on Twitter, saying that the pharmacist did not refuse to dispense, but contacted police as well.

However the pharmacist was told that “police had no powers to act as patient is already in second home,” the MP wrote.

Ms Roberts has been encouraging people who do not normally live in North Wales to stay away, and in this case was concerned that the patient, who had an existing condition, had visited the “under-resourced rural area” because they wanted a holiday.

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