13 March 2020

The Ministry of Health website remains the most up to date source of information about COVID-19 for New Zealand public and health professionals. The information in this e-mail is based on the current situation at the time of sending.

Face masks and other personal protective equipment in the pharmacy

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.

We understand current Ministry of Health advice is that personal protective equipment (PPE) is only recommended for those who cannot avoid being within 1 metre of a suspected case for more than 15 minutes. It is considered that this prolonged close contact can be avoided in the pharmacy setting.

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.

Although not normally how we approach interactions with customers/patients, pharmacy staff are advised to think about ‘social distancing’ measures. An example is paying attention to keeping a 1 metre distance between you and other people. In the pharmacy, you may be able to make use of physical barriers such as counters or make workflow alterations to help facilitate this.

If you have any questions, please e-mail

Advice around face masks for the public

Pharmacists and pharmacy staff are fielding questions from the public about the use of face masks. 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.

If you have any questions, please e-mail


Manager Practice and Policy: Chris Jay
Professional Practice Pharmacist: Chloë Campbell