Pharmacies across the province will perform a vital role in the fight against coronavirus and here in Fermanagh they have been working around the clock this week to ensure that all steps are taken to ensure patients get what they need during this difficult time.

One of those pharmacists, Ciaran Brady, spoke to this newspaper on St. Patrick’s Day at 8pm in the evening from his Florencecourt Pharmacy.

Revealing that fellow pharmacists right across the county were also working late into the night Mr. Brady said that there had been a significant increase in demand: “Pharmacy was already under pressure from prolonged underfunding. And with the latest Covid-19 outbreak we are under a lot more pressure. In our own pharmacy we have seen a big increase since Monday.

“There are serious backlogs in the system, but we are doing everything we can to deal with it and as ever staff have been brilliant; and I know that is the case in pharmacies right across the county.”

In terms of the public’s attitude towards coronavirus Mr. Brady has seen a real change this week, but he says that he has not sensed panic: “I think over the weekend there was a real change in people’s opinion. Last week people were talking about coronavirus, but this week people are aware that it is very much on our doorstep.

“But by in large people are very calm and they are aware that everyone is in this situation together and they understand that pharmacies are having to put restrictions in place,” he explained.

And those restrictions have meant that it is a safer environment for both members of the public and also the staff: “All pharmacies have social distancing in place. We have a barrier in front of our counter to keep that space.

“There is restricted access to the pharmacy, signs are up, hand sanitiser, we have the latest guidance on the door, we are encouraging contactless payments and of course anyone with symptoms is to isolate and not come to the pharmacy. Everyone has to play their part and from our point of view it is not only the safety of our patients but also the safety of our staff, who need to stay healthy not just for themselves but also because of the vital jobs that they do for the public.

“And people understand that things might change a little, we are asking people to phone ahead to make sure their prescription is ready for collection, we are asking to allow 48 hours from the point of ordering before they ring to check, we are dispensing 28 days medication in liason with the GP surgeries, for any acute prescriptions patients may be asked to wait outside until it is ready.

“We are monitoring the situation will amend it as we need to. We just want to try and minimise the chance of the virus spreading” Mr. Brady said.

He also spoke about how he and other pharmacists are looking to deal with the issue of stockpiling: “We are monitoring how much people buy.

“We want people to have what they need but we need to make sure that people are not taking weeks and weeks supply of paracetamol for example. We need to make sure that there is enough for everyone that needs it, and we are doing that.”

Mr. Brady concedes that it is an uncertain time ahead but he sees a real determination among society to help stop the spread of Coronavirus by working together as a community: “People have already been in touch to see how they can help. To see can they pick up prescriptions for people because our staff is under such pressure.

“I think the fact that we have a strong sense of community embedded in us will help” he said.