Everyone accessing or visiting healthcare settings including community pharmacies must continue to wear a face covering and follow social distancing rules, NHS England has mandated.

“Face coverings have played an important role in healthcare settings, helping protect vulnerable patients, staff and visitors by limiting the spread of this deadly disease and this guidance remains in place,” said pharmacy minister Jo Churchill in a statement today (July 15).

Earlier the government had said that the wearing of face coverings would be a matter of “personal responsibility”, after most Covid restrictions in Engalnd are lifted on Monday, July 19.

“We expect patients, visitors and NHS staff to continue using face coverings and maintain social distancing in all healthcare settings as we cautiously lift restrictions on Monday,” the minister added.

The announcement comes just two days after various healthcare organisations in England, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS, wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson, demanding that the wearing of face masks was made compulsory across all healthcare settings in England.

Giving her reaction, Thorrun Govind, chair of RPS in England, said: “Pharmacists and their teams are working really hard to support patient care and the public can do its bit to help keep people safe.

“While some pharmacies are in retail environments, they’re still a healthcare setting and have been relied upon to support and protect the public throughout the pandemic.”

The chief nursing officer for NHS England Ruth May said that face coverings and social distancing measures would remain in place across healthcare settings to allow most vulnerable people to safely visit their local community pharmacy and other healthcare settings.

“As restrictions are lifted in many places on Monday (July 19) everyone has a part to play in helping to control Covid by getting vaccinated and acting responsibly. It is vital that in healthcare settings, we do all we can to reduce the risk of infection for those working in our services and those who need our care,” she added.

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