Coronavirus – a time for solidarity


Sir, – Last week has probably been the most challenging week in all my 15 years as a community pharmacist.

You spend five years at pharmacy school but no training, books or A1 grades can prepare you for dealing with a national crisis and the associated fear that so many are feeling due to the uncertainties surrounding it.

Yes, we are well trained and educated in all the health and safety aspects of the virus. We understand well the hygiene standards that are required. However, guaranteed supplies of critical items in high demand, such as hand sanitiser, gloves, medical wipes and face masks at this time are not assured from suppliers.

People who are unwell are being correctly told not to visit the GP surgery as part of controls. This has resulted in many potential Covid-19 patients going directly to community pharmacies for advice, reassurance and medication.

This in many cases has had the unintended consequence of pharmacies potentially becoming incubators for Covid-19 if strict procedures are not developed and implemented to mitigate the potential spread of Covid-19 within pharmacies to both patients and staff.

While vague guidance has been issued from the various governing bodies , more proactive and decisive guidance is critical.

We have the same level of staffing but a much higher work demand under acutely stressful conditions. Even if additional staff were to be made available, the correct procedures for dispensing can take time to develop.

Our day typically starts with customers straight through the door asking, “Do you have any hand sanitiser?” Unfortunately we don’t. I took 104 calls on Friday asking for it. To my surprise one person actually cursed at me and said that it was “f***ing ridiculous”. All I can say is that I am sorry about that .

We have set up a containment area in the pharmacy at the door as it is our only hope of crowd control.

During the week we had 20 to 30 patients in close proximity waiting to get served. Staff then had to devote precious time to crowd control.

We have excellent assistants and they excel at what they do. But there are so many unreasonable demands.

Patients wanting to stockpile codeine products. Codeine is subject to restriction and requires a pharmacist consultation. I witnessed anger at the thought of having to wait to speak to the pharmacist. Then upon refusing them two boxes of Solpadeine and two boxes of Nurofen Plus, the abuse started. I was kindly trying to advise them that codeine will do very little for the symptoms of Covid-19 apart from causing them painful constipation which wouldn’t be helpful in quarantine by any means.

Then there are those that come in and thank us for being there and that they really appreciate the reassurance. We meet people so thankful that we are making attempts to keep the pharmacy sanitised at all times and who feel reassured by the crowd-control measures.

These are the patients who are our sunshine on a cloudy day. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

A chara, – I appreciate that I am expressing this opinion after the horses have bolted, but it strikes me that amid the general recognition that going ahead with the Cheltenham festival was self-absorbed, foolish and reckless, the various media outlets, both print and television, might have boycotted the event rather than giving it the full pomp and ceremony to which it is accustomed, albeit with some caveats and criticisms. – Is mise,


Baile na nGabhar,

Baile Átha Cliath 14.

A chara, – In light of the news story “Concerns for migrants seeking medical care” (News, March 14th), perhaps the Government should consider staying section three deportation orders for the duration of the pandemic as the threat of deportation is what will keep undocumented migrants from seeking diagnosis and treatment. This will serve to keep Covid-19 in unidentified reservoirs, completely reversing all efforts by the wider population to mitigate the spread of the virus. – Is mise,




Sir, – Financial markets? Sell! Retail markets? Buy! – Yours, etc,




Co Donegal.

Sir, – Returning tourists from Spain and Italy face new restrictions and are advised to restrict their movements for two weeks after their return. However, those returning from Cheltenham are only being subjected to “health interviews”. Hardly very reassuring! Given the perplexing and irresponsible decision of the latter group to go to the UK racing meeting in the first place , I doubt very much if they will take much notice of a cursory interview in their rush to get home! – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – During this crisis, those of us who are fortunate enough to be in stable jobs and able to work from home are looking for ways to do our bit to help.

May I suggest that we start buying gift cards for local services or business that we normally frequent but aren’t right now. Hairdressers, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.

It’s not much but gives them much-needed revenue in these tough times. Give the gift card to someone who is helping to fight this crisis.

We all know someone – our healthcare workers, gardaí, our sanitation and transport workers. This small token of our appreciation can mean a lot to them as they prepare to to sacrifice and use their expertise to help us all in these unprecedented times. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.