Important information- Novel Coronavirus and Masks

The Guild is aware that many Member pharmacies have come under pressure from consumers to supply face masks in response to the current novel coronavirus outbreak emanating from China. We are in constant dialogue with Federal health authorities to monitor the situation with this dangerous virus.

It is important at this time to be clear about the advice that has been put forward by the Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, in relation to precautions and face masks.

Professor Murphy acknowledges that people with flu like symptoms will often seek advice from a pharmacist and has advised pharmacists to offer these people the following advice:

  • Pharmacists should seek a travel history from such patients, asking them whether they have been in the Hubei province of China (including the City of Wuhan) or whether they have been in contact with people with the coronavirus infection.
  • While it is not recommended people in the community wear face masks, it is advisable that people suspected of having coronavirus should be isolated and managed with contact/droplet precautions.
  • If a person confirms that they have been to the Hubei province of China (including the City of Wuhan) or have been in contact with people with the coronavirus infection, please ask them to put on a single use surgical mask and present to their GP or Emergency Department (after first phoning ahead to warn them that they are coming).

There has been pressure on the Government to make face masks available from its pandemic stockpile to community pharmacy. Health Minister Greg Hunt said there is a national medical stockpile of 12 million masks which would be sent where they were needed based on ongoing monitoring of the situation.

Professor Murphy has stated: “There is no need for the Australian public to wear masks, the only people who should wear masks in relation to this virus are those who are unwell.”

SO WHAT SHOULD PHARMACIES DO?

Where a pharmacy has stocks of face masks, pharmacists should use their own judgment in responding to requests from members of the public who want to purchase them and assess the need for the request. We urge pharmacies with stocks of face masks to keep some masks in reserve for those cases where a patient presents with symptoms and a travel history that gives rise to concern that they may have contracted novel coronavirus.

We encourage pharmacies to use Google translator to convey messaging to Chinese people requesting masks where language may be a barrier, to explain when the appropriate time is to wear a mask. https://translate.google.com/

The table below provides a link to the relevant Commonwealth and State/Territory information and resources regarding the Novel Coronavirus.

Information and Resources Regarding the Novel Coronavirus
Commonwealth (Australian Government Department of Health)
NSW
SA
NT
VIC

We will continue to update you as we receive information and please don’t hesitate to call the Guild on 13 GUILD (13 48 453).

The Australian Government has set up a Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.  Please call this line if you are seeking information on this virus. For the latest resources, please view at Department of Health - Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) resources.

Page last updated 13 February 2020