Background: Wearing facial masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing are highly recommended preventive measures against COVID-19 . Masks and disinfectants are usually sold in community pharmacies that are supposed to undertake extreme precautions to avoid cross infection among clients . It is also their responsibility to play a prominent role in educating the community regarding this outbreak .
Objectives: To investigate the preparedness of private community pharmacies in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, for the COVID-19 outbreak with regard to safety measures, customer education, and quality of preventive aids sold by them .
Methods: One hundred pharmacies were visited by simulated clients . The availability of free hand disinfectants, masks, gloves, and customer educational aids as well as the measures employed to ensure maintenance of safe distances between customers were documented . The adherence of pharmacists and customers to safety precautions and the behavior of pharmacists against violators of regulations were also observed . Finally, the availability and quality of facial masks and hand disinfectants sold by these pharmacies was documented .
Results: Fifty-five pharmacies offered free hand disinfectants but only in three of them all customers used them . Only two pharmacies offered free disposable masks and temperature screening was available in only one pharmacy . Educational aids were found in 31 pharmacies and only 53 pharmacies used visual indicators for social distancing . Violation of wearing masks by pharmacy personnel and customers was seen in 34 and 87 pharmacies, respectively . Social distancing was violated in 64 pharmacies and intervention by staff was seen in only three of them . Finally, facial masks were available for sale in only 35 pharmacies, and in 23 of these, the quality was questionable; hand disinfectants were available in 84 pharmacies, and in 14 of these, the quality was unknown .
Conclusions: Community pharmacies in Madinah were short of registered, high-quality facial masks during the survey . Means to control the transmission of infection inside pharmacies were unsatisfactory . Society has shown poor compliance to preventive measures against COVID-19 infection and the role of community pharmacists in promoting compliance was found to be poor . The study reveals an unsatisfactory level of preparedness of Madinah community pharmacies for the pandemic.