COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: Tuesday 19 March 2020

Where can I get the latest information on COVID-19?

The Ministry of Health website remains the most up to date source of information about COVID-19 for the New Zealand public and health professionals, and should be checked regularly for the latest advice and guidelines.

Specific advice and resources for health care workers are available on the Ministry of Health’s website at Resources for health professionals. This section provides more detail on the current case definitions, managing suspected and confirmed cases in primary care, the role of face masks in health settings, and specific questions and answers for primary health care workers.

For COVID-19 pharmacy-specific information please check the Society’s Practice Support page.

How do we stop people entering the pharmacy who may have COVID-19?

The Society’s Practice team have developed a poster for use at pharmacy entrances to advise people with symptoms not to enter and providing them with other options for seeking advice about COVID-19 or interacting with the pharmacy. We encourage you to use these.

For the safety of staff and other patients, pharmacies should make clear that people who potentially have a COVID-19 infection should not enter the pharmacy.

  • If people need advice about COVID-19, they should phone the special Healthline number 0800 358 5453
  • If they need something from the pharmacy, they should phone to arrange instead of presenting in the pharmacy.

How can I manage access into the pharmacy to protect pharmacy staff and patients?

Given the rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19 and increasing risk to pharmacy staff and vulnerable patients, we recommend pharmacies seriously consider implementing measures to manage access into the pharmacy.

Management of patient flow, particularly people with any symptoms of cold or flu, will be important to protect both pharmacy staff and vulnerable patients from potential exposure to COVID-19.

Some initial ideas and issues to consider and discuss within your teams (and potentially other pharmacies in your area) are listed below. How these measures work in your individual pharmacy will depend on you, your team, your location and the pharmacy layout.

  • A ‘screening at door’ policy to prevent any patients with cold or flu symptoms from entering the pharmacy e.g. a staff member stationed at the door to ask key questions about symptoms prior to anyone entering the pharmacy
  • Large prominent signage (see poster already provided)
  • Physical barrier such as a rope or counter across the door with a staff member permitting entry of asymptomatic patients
  • Consider what alternative arrangements might work in your pharmacy for those who are unable to enter such as phoning instead, providing (contactless) delivery options, and making payments via online banking

Pharmacies may consider other channels to communicate information to their customers. For example, you may have a Facebook page or website via which you can advise people about other ways to interact with your pharmacy if they need to.

These ideas will not work for all pharmacies. This situation is fast-moving and there is a need to keep the professional conversation going. We welcome further ideas from everyone about how, as a profession, we can support each other to keep ourselves and our patients safe.

What is the current case definition for COVID-19?

The current case definition for COVID-19 is available on the Ministry of Health website.

How can I protect myself and my staff from being infected with COVID-19?

Pharmacists and pharmacy staff are rightly thinking about keeping themselves and their patients safe. The most important message for all is to implement basic hygiene measures.

Posters at the pharmacy entrance advising people with symptoms not to enter and providing them with other options for seeking advice about COVID-19 or interacting with the pharmacy are recommended.

What advice should we be giving the public?

The Ministry of Health website contains advice for the public including information on how the virus spreads, prevention (including face mask and hygiene advice), symptoms, home care, contact tracing and self-isolation.

Pharmacists and pharmacy staff are fielding questions from the public about the use of face masks and hygiene. Current advice from the Ministry of Health is that basic hygiene measures are the most important way to stop the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Basic hygiene measures include:

  • washing hands regularly with soap and water, or cleansing with hand sanitiser
  • staying at home if you are sick
  • coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow and then performing hand hygiene
  • cleaning surfaces regularly.

For most people in the community, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks are not recommended.

For people with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection, there may be benefit in wearing a face mask to reduce the spread of infection to other people.

If no face mask is available, applying the hygiene principles outlined above, people with symptoms should stay at home and seek further advice as needed:

  • For advice about COVID-19, the free HEALTHLINE number 0800 358 5453 is available 24 hours a day.
  • If advice or supplies from the pharmacy are needed, a phone call may be the best method.

What resources are available for pharmacy to use?

Posters at the pharmacy entrance advising people with symptoms not to enter and providing them with other options for seeking advice about COVID-19 or interacting with the pharmacy are recommended.

The Ministry of Health have produced resources that may be useful for pharmacies including posters about preventing infection, information sheets for the general public about COVID-19, and social media images.

The Ministry of Health is promoting basic hygiene messages and providing updates via their social media channels, which could be shared if you use social media for your pharmacy - @minhealthnz on Facebook and Twitter.

The Society will post an adapted version of the poster about not entering a pharmacy if you may have a COVID-19 infection on the Society's Facebook page which you may wish to share with your followers.

How can I educate pharmacy staff on COVID-19?

Pharmacy staff are an important resource for educating the public and helping to minimise spread of COVID-19. The resources on the Ministry of Health website designed for the public will be useful for educating your staff so they can reinforce Ministry advice when people seek information in the pharmacy.

What is the Society doing to advocate on behalf of members of the pharmacy profession?

As you will be aware, the COVID-19 situation in New Zealand is evolving rapidly. The Ministry of Health are aware of the need for specific guidance for community health teams such as community pharmacies and are working on this as a matter of urgency. Some pharmacies may have received information from their own District Health Boards.

The Society is working with stakeholders across the pharmacy sector and District Health Boards to develop further pharmacy-specific tools.

The Practice team continue to meet with Ministry officials and other health sector organisations to ensure members’ concerns are being heard. All feedback that we are receiving from our members at the coalface is being communicated to central co-ordination teams.

A pharmacy sector liaison group established by the Ministry to provide a coordinated response is operational. The Society’s Practice team are also an active participant in the Ministry of Health Primary Care Technical Advisory Subgroup. We will provide any updates for the pharmacy sector from these meetings in the coming days. This will be undertaken in collaboration with the Pharmacy Guild, Green Cross Health and other pharmacy sector groups as appropriate.

Who can I contact at PSNZ with questions about COVID-19?

The Society’s Practice Support team will be collating your questions as they come in and providing further updates in the coming days.

Please continue to e-mail any questions, comments and feedback to practice@psnz.org.nz

Disclaimer: The New Zealand environment continues to change rapidly for the management of COVID-19. This information is based on the current situation at the time of publishing.