Coronavirus advice for veterinary professionals

Veterinary services during Covid-19 

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis veterinary professionals have been able to work, in line with the UK government's advice to business. Initially, this work was limited to urgent and emergency services, and services to maintain the food supply chain. Practices then transitioned to providing services that are essential for animal health and welfare or public health, including to relieve pain and suffering.

Veterinary practices are now working within local, regional, and national lockdown measures and services will vary according to local rules (see below). Practices are providing as full a range of services as possible, whilst working safely. This does not mean a return to pre-Covid 'business as usual' ways of working. 

All veterinary services must be provided in a manner that supports social/physical distancing and good hygiene and biosecurity. 

Updated guidance on working safely during Covid-19

For the most up to date guidance on working safely during Covid-19 please refer to our FAQs

England - updated guidance 2 November 2020

We’ve issued updated guidance for practices during the national lockdown in England (5 November to 2 December 2020). This should be read in conjunction with the RCVS flowchart for England.

Local restrictions tiers from 2 December 2020

The full list of local restriction tiers for England was announced on 26 November and will be in place from 2 December. Veterinary practices can remain open under all tiers and we are currently working with the RCVS and Defra to determine guidance for working in the different tiers.

Wales

The 'firebreak' restrictions in Wales ended at midnight on 8 November 2020. Veterinary practices are no longer required to restrict services, as long as they continue to comply with Covid-19 requirements on working safely.

We advise members to access up to date information on working safely during Covid-19 through our FAQs and by following RCVS guidance – see the RCVS flowchart for Wales. BVA guidance on working safely during Covid-19 also includes useful information which practices may find helpful to adapt to their local circumstances.

Scotland 

In November 2020, Scotland moved to a system of local Covid Protection Levels. Under all levels, veterinary services are classed as essential services, and veterinary surgeons are listed as a businesses that can remain open under Level 4 restrictions in the Health Protection (Coronavirus)(Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Level) (Scotland) Regulations 2020.

Practices are therefore able to remain open and do not have to restrict services to emergency or food supply chain work as long as they continue to comply with general Covid-19 business requirements on working safely. Businesses that can continue to operate at Level 4 must:

  • Plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively and maintain their service/operations.
  • Ensure all regulations and guidance is adhered to by staff and customers/visitors to site.
  • Encourage staff to work from home wherever possible, particularly with regards to staff who are assessed as at possible risk.

If you live in a Covid Protection Level 3 or 4 local authority, Scottish Government guidance sets out that you can still travel outside of your local authority area to go to work if your work cannot be done from home, and clients are still able to travel for essential animal welfare reasons, such as accessing veterinary care .

We advise members to access up to date information on working safely during Covid-19 through our FAQs and by following RCVS guidance – see the RCVS flowchart for ScotlandBVA guidance on working safely during Covid-19 also includes useful information which practices may find helpful to adapt to their local circumstances.

Northern Ireland

New restrictions come into effect on 27 November 2020. These restrictions are in place to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and to help manage the pressures on the health and social care system.

The executive has released a list of businesses that can stay open during this period of restrictions. Veterinary practices appear on this list and can therefore remain open.

We have sought further clarity from DAERA and can confirm that the new regulations do not place new restrictions on the activities of veterinary practices. We continue to advise members in Northern Ireland to follow our guidance on working safely during the Covid-19 pandemic. BVA guidance should be read in conjunction with the RCVS guidance for Northern Ireland which is in the process of being updated.

Previous BVA guidance

You can access previous guidance for veterinary professionals:

Frequently asked questions

Read our FAQs for the latest information, including sections on: in the workplace; government support for veterinary businesses; medicines; students; mental health; how you can help; and animal owners and breeders.

Webinars - Covid-19 and the veterinary profession

We ran a programme of webinars, in partnership with The Webinar Vet, to help keep you up-to-date on the restrictions, what they mean for veterinary work, and our lobbying efforts to secure support for veterinary businesses. The sessions also provided an opportunity for you ask your questions direct to our President, Daniella Dos Santos.

Access previous webinars

Financial and business support for vets

This period is likely to be financially difficult for many businesses and individuals. Take a look at the support available for individuals and veterinary practices.

Resources for veterinary practices Image

Resources for veterinary practices

Resources for veterinary practices 

Download our social media graphics and poster to help you communicate the key Covid-19 messages to your clients. 

Download Coronavirus Resources

Contact tracing across the UK

The four nations of the UK have launched contact tracing programmes. 

Employees in self-isolation are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay for every day they are in isolation, as long as they meet the eligibility conditions.

 

Advice from Public Health England on contact tracing, use of PPE, and self-isolation

Advice from Public Health England on contact tracing, use of PPE, and self-isolation

In response to our lobbying, Public Health England has now updated its advice so that veterinary professionals who take all appropriate precautions and who wear appropriate PPE when working together will not be considered as ‘contacts’ and will not be asked to self-isolate.

What this means for you:

•           Each veterinary practice should carry out its own risk assessment in relation to use of PPE, the impact of test and trace, and ways of working. PHE expects most veterinary professionals would not be wearing full PPE and in these cases individuals would be asked to self-isolate. Where this would cause a significant impact on the provision of veterinary services, for example in rural/remote areas, and could impact animal health and welfare local PHE teams can carry out a risk assessment

•           Members of the veterinary team do not need to wear more PPE than they usually would. It should be based on the practice’s own risk assessments. Full use of PPE is only appropriate in situations where you cannot maintain social distancing in your work, such as during dental work or surgery.

•           Social distancing, hand hygiene and biosecurity are all key aspects of disease control and use of PPE should not be used as a substitute for these measures.  Any use of PPE must therefore also be accompanied by ongoing social and physical distancing (as far as possible), hand hygiene, and good biosecurity.

•           Continue to work in dedicated small teams and pairs and practise social and physical distancing as much as possible.

•           If you (or a member of your team) test positive for Covid-19 and you are contacted by a contact trace call handler, provide full details about your PPE.

•           If a client or a contact outside your workplace names you as a contact, you may still need to self-isolate, as you won’t know who identified you due to confidentiality.

•           In the event that self-isolation is required and would lead to a major problem with the provision of veterinary services in your area, contact your local PHE Health Protection Team to discuss it.

Read our blog PHE’s clarification on PPE use and contact tracing: What it means for you by BVA President, Daniella Dos Santos

Advice from Health Protection Scotland on contact tracing, use of PPE and self-isolation

Health Protection Scotland guidance for contact tracing in complex settings specifies that if Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been used – such as visors, masks, gloves-  in a non-health care or social care setting, an individual risk assessment will be undertaken by contact tracers to decide whether there has been an exposure risk sufficient to require contact isolation. The Scottish Government has confirmed that this guidance is applicable to veterinary settings.

What this means for you:

  • Members of the veterinary team do not need to wear more PPE than they usually would. It should be based on the practice’s own risk assessments. Full use of PPE is only appropriate in situations where you cannot maintain social distancing in your work, such as during dental work or surgery.
  • Social distancing, hand hygiene and biosecurity are all key aspects of disease control and use of PPE should not be used as a substitute for these measures.  Any use of PPE must therefore also be accompanied by ongoing social and physical distancing (as far as possible), hand hygiene, and good biosecurity.
  • Continue to work in dedicated small teams and pairs and practise social and physical distancing as much as possible.
  • If you (or a member of your team) are contacted by a contact tracing call handler, provide full details about your PPE. The contact tracer should then conduct an individual risk assessment to determine if you are required to self-isolate. 
  • If you (or a member of your team) test positive for Covid-19 make sure you explain the full circumstances to the contact tracing call handler, including full details about your PPE.
  • If a client or a contact outside your workplace names you as a contact, you may still need to self-isolate, as you won’t know who identified you due to confidentiality.
  • If you are using the Test and Protect app and receive a close contact alert advising you to self-isolate, but believe you were wearing PPE at the time of the contact, you can call the National COVID helpline (0800 028 2816) to help you understand the exposure notification and make an informed decision as to whether to self-isolate.

BVA is not advising veterinary professionals to routinely use more PPE than they normally would and it should be based on the practice’s own risk assessments. We advise anyone who tests positive to provide details to the call handler about the PPE they were using when they were in contact with others.

Social distancing, hand hygiene and biosecurity are all key aspects of disease control and use of PPE should not be used as a substitute for these measures. Any use of PPE must therefore also be accompanied by ongoing social and physical distancing (as far as possible), hand hygiene, and good biosecurity

Supporting you

The BVA legal helpline is available to all members with any questions about the impact of Covid-19 on your business or employment rights. You may also want to take a look at the helpline Coronavirus FAQs.

Lloyd & Whyte is available to all members for professional insurance and financial advice. Read their advice on insurance and Covid-19

Vetlife is available 24/7 to support you if you are feeling worried or anxious, via their website or 0303 040 2551. Support is also available via Vet Support NI and Vet Support Scotland.

Changes to RSPCA out-of-hours

RSPCA have made temporary changes to their out-of-hours provision, which may have an impact on veterinary professionals. Full details of these changes, what impact they may have on vets, and who you can contact at RSPCA are available for members to view in this resource.

Coronavirus and animals

There have been a number of reports of dogs, mink and cats (both domestic and large) testing positive for SARS-Cov-2.

The OIE states that now SARS-Cov-2 infections are widely distributed in the human population, there is a possibility for certain animal species to become infected through close contact with infected humans.

Although several animal species have been infected with SARS-Cov-2, these infections are not a driver of the Covid-19 pandemic; the pandemic is driven by human to human transmission. Studies are underway to better understand the susceptibility of different animal species to SARS-Cov-2 and to assess infection dynamics in susceptible animal species.

However it is important to recognise that there is no evidence to suggest that animals that have been infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of Covid-19 back to humans.  

If a pet animal is presenting with clinical signs, you should continue to pursue symptomatic treatment for clinical signs as normal and test for common respiratory pathogens.

The virus responsible for Covid-19 was detected in a pet cat in England in July, the first such known case in the UK, following tests at the APHA laboratory in Weybridge. The government has emphasised that all available evidence suggests that the cat contracted the coronavirus from its owners, who had previously tested positive for Covid-19. The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery and no other animals or people in the household were affected. Read our statement.

It is also the case that animals may act as fomites, as the virus could be on their fur for a short period of time in the same way it is on other surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs. That’s why our main advice for animal owners continues to be to practise good hand hygiene by washing their hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds with soap and water) after touching their pet. Vets should continue to take the usual precautions when handling animals and animal products in line with good biosecurity protocols.

More detailed reports on SARS-Cov-2 infections in animals that have been reported to the OIE can be accessed at the OIE’s Findings in Animals page.

Tests for Covid-19 in animals are now available in the UK but have to meet strict criteria. More information is available in our FAQs.

Advice if pet owners have Covid-19 or are self-isolating

The OIE recommends that people who are sick with Covid-19 limit contact with companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus. Read the OIE Questions and answers on Covid-19 in full.

Read our full advice for pet owners diagnosed with Covid-19 or self-isolating with symptoms on our coronavirus advice for animal owners page.

We're here to support you. 
Contact us via our dedicated Covid-19 email:

[email protected]