‘We don’t need stockpiling’: Pharmacists warn Canberrans against panic buying masks

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The ACT branch of the Pharmacy Guild is urging Canberrans not to panic buy masks and says there are plenty available in the capital if the advice around wearing them changes.

Victorians are required to wear a mask anytime they are outside their homes and yesterday New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian “strongly recommended” people in the state wear masks to protect against coronavirus.

While the move is not enforceable, like the advice in NSW, the ACT Government said Canberrans should “prepare for a time where wearing face masks becomes another part of how we respond to the threat of COVID-19”.

“It would be in addition to physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying home if you are unwell.”

The move comes as supermarket chain Woolworths is urging customers to wear masks, and pharmacies in Canberra have already seen an impact from that direction.

“Since the directive from Woolies about masks came through we’ve noticed that a lot of people are coming in wearing masks,” pharmacist Rebecca Richardson said.

“We have been selling a lot more masks.”

No need to panic-buy masks: Pharmacy Guild

A health care worker tests someone in a car for COVID-19.
There are currently no known cases of COVID-19 in the ACT.(ABC News: Toby Hunt)

ACT Pharmacy Guild president Simon Blacker said pharmacies in Canberra were well prepared and well stocked if a public health direction came into effect.

“They are not having any trouble sourcing masks at the moment, so people don’t need to worry,” he said.

Mr Blacker also said pharmacies would not be urging people to wear masks in stores until the Government made it enforceable.

“For a pharmacy to say people must wear a mask is a little heavy handed,” he said.

“I’ve observed that Woolworths strongly suggests it and pharmacies may go down that path, but at this stage we are still guided by the Government.”

What would it take to get to that point?

ACT Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said the Government was closely watching towns bordering the ACT for COVID-19 cases.

“Looking at what’s happening in the ACT and in the NSW surrounding regions for a rapid increase in cases or the appearance of a cluster or an outbreak,” she said.

Dr Coleman said signs of community transmission in Yass or Queanbeyan would trigger a Government response that could escalate to mandatory mask wearing.

“They are definitely locations we are looking at very closely,” she said.

A COVID-19 survival plan might not be a bad idea

Dr Coleman is urging Canberrans to stay prepared, but insists there is no need to panic.

“We should start thinking about it the same way we plan for a bushfire,” she said.

“We need to have our home kits in case we need to evacuate, so what are some of the things we need to keep ourselves safe if we start getting coronavirus cases in the ACT?”

Masks will be on that list, but Dr Coleman said there was more to consider than just face coverings.

“We also need to think about our soap and our hand hygiene measures as well as a box of tissues,” she said.

The ACT has not recorded any new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, meaning the territory remains free of known coronavirus cases.


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