World news wrapup: 30 April 2020

Funeral lily

UK mourns another “true NHS hero;” pharmacy owner says frozen business account due to her ethnicity; Indian state introduces pharmacy reporting app

North London, England: Britain has lost another pharmacist in Mehool Patel, 48, who passed away after a month-long battle with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.

Mr Patel was the co-owner, with his two brothers, of the Bliss Chemist in North London.

His widow, Arpeeta, told The Sun that “He was a true NHS hero who continued to work because he wanted to help his patients. He will be dearly missed by all his family and friends.”

Meanwhile family friend Shital Patel said that Mr Patel had been a “fantastic” pharmacist.

“He was very dynamic and passionate about his profession. He absolutely loved his patients and would do anything for them.”

Mr Patel is the third British pharmacist known to date to have lost their lives to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the NHS observed a one-minute silence for health care and key workers who have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society paid tribute to Mr Patel as well as Pooja Sharma and Jayesh Bhanubhai Patel, also members of the profession who have also died from COVID-19.

“Pharmacists and their teams are making an incredible contribution to the frontline. News that anyone in the pharmacy family has passed away from the virus is a tragedy,” said RPS CEO Paul Bennet.

“Pooja, Jayesh and Mehool went to work every day to support patients. Each of their deaths is not only heart-breaking for their family, friends and colleagues, but also for all the patients they helped support during their career.”

Estimates of the numbers of frontline worker deaths from COVID-19 in the UK range from 98 to more than 140.

According to The Sun, families of those who died have said lack of personal protective equipment was a factor.


Marylebone, England: A pharmacy in central London has had its business account frozen without explanation, reports The Guardian, in a move which a co-owner suspects may be due to the family’s ethnicity and origin.

Neda, who did not give The Guardian her surname, said that the Metro Bank account had contained more than £10,000 (AUD$19,088) earmarked for paying suppliers, staff wages, rent and utility bills among other costs of doing business.

Neda said she suspected the bank had frozen the account – which she said has resulted in the business “struggling” –  “because  of our ethnicity and where we come from”.

Neda was born in Italy to Iranian parents and has visited Iran on a number of occasions.

“As a pharmacy we have responsibility towards our patients for their medications. We are working every day as NHS frontline … but we need our banking facility to be in good order to continue to do so.

“We could not pay our staff until now, and they are kind enough to work during this situation. However, we have managed to borrow money at least to pay our suppliers so we can order medications and carry on opening our pharmacy on a daily basis.”

Guardian reporter Rupert Jones writes that in recent years there have been several cases where British banks were alleged to have undertaken “purges” of clients who have links to particular countries.

In March, one bank was sued by several Iranian customers who had also said their accounts were “unfairly” frozen without warning, and without explanation.


Andhra Pradesh, India: The Government of Andhra Pradesh has launched a new app to keep track of patients with symptoms which could indicate infection with the COVID-19 virus.

The Hindu Business Line reports that the app is aimed at pharmacy workers, who are to note and report the details of any person buying medicines to treat ailments involving coughs, fever or cold symptoms.

Every pharmacist in the state is reportedly expected to download and use the app.

“The objective behind the app is to monitor any increase in incidence of cold and fever so that the patients can be tracked,” said a senior Health Department official.

“This works as an additional pre-cautionary measure simultaneous to regular sample testing being done.”


New York, US: Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that all of New York State’s 5,000 independent pharmacies will now be able to test patients for COVID-19.

Some pharmacies which are affiliated with chains have already been collecting samples for testing, reports ABC 7 New York, reporting the new move as “significant”. New York has been particularly hard hit by the novel coronavirus.

The tests will not check for the antibodies which would indicate prior exposure to COVID-19, but will be limited to diagnosing the disease.

“If your local drugstore can now become a collection site, people can go to their local drugstore,” Mr Cuomo said.

He also announced that diagnostic testing criteria was to be expanded to include first responders, frontline health workers and essential workers, who can all access testing for antibodies as of next week.

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