WHO/Europe: Community pharmacists are key players in COVID-19 response and must stay up-to-date on guidance

Copenhagen, 27 May 2020

Those dispensing medicines to the general public should know what steps to take if they suspect or see signs of COVID-19. This is one of the key recommendations in a series of new technical guidelines created by WHO/Europe, looking at the practical ways in which health systems can respond better to COVID-19.

Community pharmacies are often the first port of call for people who are feeling ill. They are well placed within their communities to offer advice and reinforce messages about hand and respiratory hygiene and physical distancing.

Therefore, it is important that pharmacists stay up to date and well informed about the latest advice, the guidelines say. Those working in pharmacies should know how to wear personal protective equipment effectively and maintain high standards of hygiene. It is also advised that stores display infographics demonstrating good handwashing techniques and the correct use of face masks.

There are no approved treatments for COVID-19 and pharmacies must, therefore, play their part in helping to contain the spread of false claims and misinformation circulating in their communities, according to WHO/Europe.

Practically, pharmacies may have to extend opening hours and ensure they have enough staff to cover absences in case of illness. They may need to start home delivery services for prescription and non-prescription medicines and make changes to the store environment to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

Even though COVID-19 is at the forefront of people’s minds, the new guidelines also highlight the importance of keeping pharmacies stocked up with commonly used medicines, as well as ensuring that they can continue to provide for those with chronic medical conditions.

Strengthening the Health Systems Response to COVID-19: technical guidance for community pharmacists

Source: WHO/Europe