‘BE PATIENT, order early, and double check’.

This is the advice from a Somerset pharmacist who has been working through the ‘pandemonium’ of the coronavirus outbreak.

Max Punni, who runs 11 pharmacies across the South West, including Staplegrove Pharmacy, says he and his staff have been working extremely hard to get medicine to people who need it - despite being treated poorly by some customers.

“Usually there is a lull around this time of year,” he said. “But there’s been a huge spike.

“Everyday is like working at the same level of Christmas eve - incredibly busy.”

Mr Punni said NHS guidance has, so far, been hard to come by, and pharmacies are left to make decisions and go with them.

Before the outbreak started, Mr Punni reported already seeing some medication shortages, which he said was because of Brexit, and more shortages are being seen on top of those as the virus spreads.

He said: “There’s definitely a strain on the supply chain.

“We didn’t get one of our deliveries because the company ran out of containers, and we have had to stop doing blister packs for people.

“we are an independent pharmacy, so we don’t rely on mass levels. We provide a personal service, I know people’s names, but now we just have to get a move on.”

Mr Punni says requests for deliveries have increased, but explained how the government has not allocated extra funding so they can increase their deliveries, and the extra workload is taking a toll on his employees.

“It’s what we do and what we love,” he added.

“We place ourselves at the frontline and we have to be resilient.

“But some of my staff are breaking down.

“People are panicked and are asking questions, and we don’t always have the answers.”

Mr Punni himself has asthma, so would have a reason to isolate himself. But if he did that, he feared no one would be around to do the work.

He advised restrictions may also be in place to reduce the amount of people inside the store at one time.

So his message to his customers is to order early - don’t wait until you’re running too low on any essential medications, to be patient - his staff are working as hard as possible, and to double check your order once it is received, as mistakes are harder to fix once you leave.