Will the expiration of the coronavirus law affect the teams of city pharmacies? |Chemist+Drugist :: C+D

As part of the government’s plan to fight COVID-19, the coronavirus law was published at the start of the pandemic and became law on March 25, 2020.

Now that the expiration date is approaching two years later, C+D spoke to legal experts about how these restrictions and the waning COVID-19 restrictions may – or may not – affect community pharmacists and their teams.

What is the coronavirus law?

The coronavirus law has been one of the pillars of the government’s plan to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Analysis of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (DH) published in September of the same year.

He “expected […] changes to the legislation” which has given “public bodies in the UK the tools and powers they need to respond effectively to [the] emergency” the pandemic presented.

The English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh governments each reviewed “tools and powers defined by law” and amended existing legislation “to ensure that the UK’s response was coherent and effective”.

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Attempting to find a balance between “protecting public health and safeguarding the rights of individuals”, the law addressed five key needs: increasing the workforce available in the field of health and social services; ease the burden on front-line staff; slow down the virus; manage the deceased “with respect and dignity”; and supporting people and businesses.

While half of the original 40 provisions have already expired in the two years since the law was written, the government plans to scrap another 16 “at midnight on March 24”, he wrote in a document detailing its “Living with COVID-19” plan.

Four provisions – including one that allows court hearings to take place using audio and video links – will “expire within six months”, although the government is “currently seeking approval to make them permanent through of other primary legislation,” the DH wrote.

End of act “symbolic for pharmacists”

Noel Wardle, a lawyer and partner at Temple Bright LLP who specializes in pharmacy law, told C+D that the upcoming withdrawal of the law “is probably more symbolic for pharmacists.”

He doubts that the expiration of most provisions “will have practical implications” for them.

“I don’t really feel like [pharmacy teams are] going to feel a change or a difference” on Friday, he said.

Many of the ‘most obvious’ restrictions and changes the government has implemented over the past two years – such as face mask mandates, restrictions on foreign travel and car requirements -isolation – are not actually the fruit of the coronavirus law, but have their origins in older legislation, such as the Health and Welfare Act 2006, he explains.

Most of the laws that have affected pharmacists over the past two years were “already on the compendium of laws waiting to be used” and were “implemented when the pandemic happened,” Ms. .Wardle.

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Unlike doctors and nurses, most parts of the country did not need legal amendments to allow pharmacists to register on the temporary register during the pandemic. However, a specific provision has been made for Northern Ireland in the law.

As pharmacists in Northern Ireland are registered with the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI), rather than the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), “their registration provisions are not contained in the College of Pharmacy” . As a result, “the PSNI needed specific power” to temporarily register pharmacists, says Mr Wardle.

It must expire with the act tonight.

A PSNI spokesperson told C+D today that it invoked “specific powers” to temporarily register pharmacists during the pandemic and that to date there are 262 pharmacists on the temporary register.

The PSNI will stop accepting applications after March 31 and the temporary registry will close in September, provided there are no more spikes in COVID-19 cases, the spokesperson added.

Mr Wardle suggests that other provisions of the Coronavirus Act may have indirectly affected pharmacy teams, such as protection against forfeiture or deportation for Residential and Company leases and be able to “pay statutory sick pay from day one”.

Other residual legislation could still affect pharmacy teams

Although the expiry of the coronavirus law is expected to have little impact on pharmacists and their teams, Mr Wardle says “there are still residual parts of the coronavirus restrictions legislation that could have an impact” on the sector.

Changes to the terms of service that allowed pharmacies to temporarily close if they didn’t have enough staff “did not arise out of the coronavirus law”, Mr Wardle said.

This provision remains in the legal texts, he explains, and “could be used in the future”.

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This is echoed by David Reissner, president of the Pharmacy Law & Ethics Association, who tells C+D that “the systems put in place in the past […] two years have put in place a framework “that can be used” if a similar global pandemic were to happen again.

The legal framework established for the approval and implementation of vaccines, as well as the provisions made to allow “manufacturers and suppliers to be protected from the risk of being sued when they introduce vaccines” are important keep in place for future use, he says.

Safeguarding becomes a moral issue

Although the expiry of the coronavirus law and the expiration of the restrictions that defined the last two years of our lives mark a new approach to COVID-19, the problems of mask wearing and vaccination remain “problems of news,” Mr. Reissner said.

The fact that the GPhC announced “that it expects all pharmacy workers to be vaccinated”, it continues, imposes a “professional obligation” to be vaccinated even if the legal obligation has been removed .

Read more: Do patients still wear face masks in pharmacies?

“What the GPhC does is rely on the natural tendency of pharmacy professionals to conform to its professional requirements,” says Reissner. When it comes to face masks, it’s up to pharmacy teams how they apply this in their retail premises, he says.

If they choose to impose the wearing of a mask on their premises and “someone enters a pharmacy without wearing a mask, the pharmacist is entitled to say” you have to go out, “he explains.

Have you or your pharmacy used any of the provisions of the Coronavirus Act? Join the C+D Community Conversation

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