Coronavirus disease 2019: Are you up to date with the latest advice?

4th March 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now named the Wuhan novel coronavirus, COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.” The risk associated with COVID-19 remains a high priority patient safety concern and we would like to highlight recent updates and additional guidance to support you and your pharmacy team when faced with questions from the public or when presented with a suspected case of the disease.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses and there are several known coronaviruses that infect people and usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold. However, at least two previously identified coronaviruses have caused severe disease – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The route of transmission is unknown, however transmission of other coronaviruses is typically through direct or indirect contact with infected respiratory secretions as well as blood, faeces and urine.

Symptoms of COVID-19
People with underlying illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, weakened immune systems and the elderly are likely to be more vulnerable to respiratory disease. The majority of infected people report a mild illness, however there are some cases where severe symptoms have been reported and also a small number of fatalities. Symptoms of COVID-19 may include:

·         Fever

·         Cough

·         Tightness of the chest

·         Sore throat

·         Nasal congestion

·         Malaise

·         Headache

·         Muscle pain

·         Dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing)

·         Pneumonia

·         Severe respiratory syndrome

Treatment and Prevention
Currently, there is no specific, antiviral treatment available although treatment should be given to patients infected with COVID-19 to relieve symptoms. There is also no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and the best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus

Current Situation in the UK
The UK risk level has been increased from low to moderate and the Chief Medical Officer will announce any new confirmed cases in the UK.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will publish updated UK information daily at 2pm until further notice and pharmacy teams are encouraged to regularly check this page to monitor the situation in the UK.

What measures can people adopt to protect themselves and others from getting the new coronavirus?

Frequently clean your hands by using an alcohol-based hand rub product like a gel or wash your hands with soap and water
When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or use a tissue

(If a tissue is used, discard it immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands as above)

Avoid close contact with anyone that is coughing, sneezing and has a fever, and maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, share information about any recent travels with your healthcare provider and seek medical care early
If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no specific travel history, carefully follow the precautions listed above and ensure that you stay at home until you recover
Avoid eating animal products that are not thoroughly cooked
Avoid direct contact with live animals or surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets situated in areas where cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed

Advice on the use of masks
Healthy people are not recommended to wear facemasks to protect against the virus because there is little evidence of benefit from their use outside clinical settings. Masks must be used in combination with hand-hygiene and other preventative measures in order for them to be effective and must be worn and disposed of correctly. Incorrect use may result in the mask becoming the source of infection rather than protecting people. The WHO has released downloadable posters and videos on how to put on, use, take off and dispose of a mask.

Advice to patients and the public

Immediately self isolate and call NHS 111 if:

  • You have travelled to Wuhan or Hubei Province in China, Iran, Daegu or Cheongdo in the Republic of Korea or any Italian town under containment measures in the last 14 days (even if you do not have symptoms)*
  • You have travelled to Cambodia, other parts of China, Hong Kong, Italy: north (not under containment measures), Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, other parts of the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand or Vietnam in the last 14 days and have a coughhigh temperature or shortness of breath (even if it’s mild)*
  • You have been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus.* The advice for Italy, Iran, Daegu or Cheongdo (Republic of Korea), Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam applies to individuals who returned from these specific areas on or after 19 February 2020

NPA advice for pharmacy teams  

Advice for pharmacy staff who have travelled to affected areas/countries
Guidance and recommendations including criteria for self-isolation at home or occupational health advice has been published by GOV.UK 

Public Health England (PHE) has published a set of posters to download and display in your pharmacy to direct patients who think they could be infected with coronavirus (COVID-19). The posters should be visible to people seeking to enter the pharmacy.

Country specific resources
Northern Ireland



NPA resources
The NPA has published a dedicated webpage to COVID-19 and the following resource has been produced to support pharmacy teams in the provision of advice for patients wanting more information on COVID-19:

  • COVID-19 – pharmacy team guide: this details the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and provides advice for pharmacy team

For further information please contact the NPA Pharmacy Services team on 01727 891800 or email at: