People in Scotland must wear a face covering in retail environments from today.

10 Jul 2020

Scottish Government have entered Phase 3 of coming out of lockdown, with significant changes to social distancing rules. Patients must now wear face coverings when in the pharmacy (with some exceptions).

Before Phase 3, Scottish Government have encouraged the public to wear face coverings in enclosed places where 2m social distancing may not be possible and it was a requirement on public transport in Scotland from 22nd June. From Friday 10thJuly it is mandatory for members of the public entering retail premises including pharmacies, to wear face coverings with some exceptions. Read the full guidance for more information.

Scottish Government caution the public that the wearing of face coverings, although required now in shops must not be seen as an alternative to washing hands frequently and physical distancing. It is still highly recommended for all pharmacy staff to wearfluid-resistant surgical facemasks at all times working in the pharmacy. Fixed penalty notices can be applied to those who do not comply with the new requirement.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states “the use of masks by the general population in the community setting include reducing potential exposure risk from an infected person during the ‘pre-symptomatic’ period or if an infected person is asymptomatic (that is when they may not have symptoms)”

WHO recognises potential risks from wearing face coverings including: causing difficulty in breathing, being uncomfortable to wear, creating a false sense of security and increasing potential for infection if the covering is contaminated by being touched often. The wearing of face masks can lead to difficulty with communicating clearly. Pharmacy teams should be confident they have heard a patient’s query correctly and may need to ask for clarification and repetition more frequently than usual which can lead to frustration. Pharmacy staff members need to understand who is exempted from the legislation, and the pharmacy should display guidance for the public to wear face coverings appropriately.

What is a face covering?

A face covering can be fabric or other material that covers your mouth and nose whilst letting you breathe. A face visor can be used if it covers the mouth and nose completely. Advice on how to make a face covering is also available.

Who is exempt from wearing face coverings in pharmacies?

  • Staff who are physically separated, for example by perspex screens, or who maintain a 2 metre distance from customers
  • You are speaking to someone who is lip reading
  • You are taking medication
  • You need to eat or drink
  • You have a health condition or disability which causes a face covering to cause difficulty, pain, severe distress or anxiety
  • You have a reason that you cannot apply or wear a face covering appropriately or consistently.
  • All children under 5 years and for older children apply individual consideration for health or disability concerns

What resources are there to use in the pharmacy?