The chief executive of the Lloyds Pharmacy chain has revealed that 2,500 members of staff are now self-isolating, equivalent to 20% of its entire workforce.

Toby Anderson said that despite all employees having access to personal protective equipment (PPE), many are no longer working after displaying coronavirus symptoms.

Pharmacies can remain open under the Government's guidelines, as they are deemed an 'essential retailer', however there are concerns about the welfare of staff - and the protections being put in place to safeguard them.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that pharmacists are key health care professionals and are entitled to PPE.

But the The Royal Pharmaceutical Society argues that they are "needlessly being put at risk" of catching and spreading coronavirus due to a lack of safety equipment such as masks, gloves and aprons.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Tony Anderson today called for all frontline pharmacy workers to be tested for coronavirus.

A nurse puts on his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before starting to work
A nurse puts on his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before starting to work

"It's important that, with more than 20% sickness in our frontline teams, we ensure all healthcare workers have access to Covid-19 tests so that we can help frontline staff back into helping patients in the community," he said.

He said employees had access to PPE and had protective screens and visors for further protection.

Community pharmacists work as contractors for the NHS or for pharmacy chains like Lloyds or Boots and are the first port of call for much of the public when unwell.

Pharmacists give health advice, dispense medication and check doctor's prescriptions for errors.

NHS England said millions of pieces of PPE were being delivered.

The chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge has said the government is making arrangements to get the equipment to pharmacists.

Are pharmacies still open?

Yes, many pharmacies are still open to the public however customers are being treated on a one-in-one-out basis as most stores are too small to enforce social distancing.

However, some Boots stores will be closing this week in areas where demand is low.

The first wave of branches - all in London - will close on Friday, April 10. The second wave - spread across the country - will be closed by Wednesday, 15 April.

Are GP surgeries open during the coronavirus crisis?

Most surgeries have closed their doors to physical patients and are now offering telephone triage appointments only.

It varies by surgery, though, with some accepting patients who have pre-booked appointments and some now conducting them over the phone.

Check with your GP on their working practices either on their website or by phoning them.

Repeat prescription requests can be done online for surgeries that have this facility set up.

If you have either a fever or a new and continuous cough the NHS website advises you to stay home and away from others. Do not go to your local pharmacy.

The advice is to self-isolate for a period of 14 days and to avoid going mixing with the public.

Anybody who lives in your household should also self-isolate if you're feeling ill.