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 (in March 2020), 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.

As rules have changed across the UK veterinary practices have been adapting their working practices and range of services in line with local, regional, and national lockdown measures.

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 - national lockdown 

On 4 January the Prime Minister announced a new national lockdown for England. Veterinary practices can remain open but BVA and the RCVS agreed that vets should only be undertaking work and seeing patients in-person for essential animal health and welfare reasons or to maintain the food chain.

Veterinary teams should refer to the new BVA guidance which complements the RCVS flowchart for England.

Wales

All of Wales moved into alert level 4 from midnight on 19 December 2020.

Welsh Government has advised that veterinary services may continue to operate, but non-essential sales of petcare products must cease, in line with the suspension of non-essential retail. Services that are not necessary for the health and welfare of animals or for the production of food should be deferred. Vets and animal keepers should make themselves aware of, and follow, Welsh Government guidance.

Veterinary practices in Wales must continue to assess and triage cases in the context of the restrictions and RCVS guidance. 

We advise members to refer to the RCVS flowchart for Wales and BVA guidance on working safely during Covid-19.

Scotland - national lockdown (level 4)

On 4 January the First Minister announced a new national lockdown for mainland Scotland. Veterinary practices can remain open and Scottish Government has stated that they should plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively.

BVA and the RCVS agreed that vets should only be undertaking work and seeing patients in-person for essential animal health and welfare reasons or to maintain the food chain.

Veterinary teams should refer to the new BVA guidance which complements the RCVS flowchart for mainland Scotland (temporary lockdown).

Note: On 13 January the First Minister announced further tightening of Covid-19 restrictions, including putting into law that in Level 4 areas work is only permitted within a private dwelling if it is essential for the upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household. Scottish Government has clarified that home visits by vets for essential animal welfare purposes continue to be permitted under this exemption.

Scotland - Covid protection levels 0-3

Some Scottish islands remain under Covid Level 3 restrictions. Under all levels, veterinary services are classed as essential services.

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 follow the RCVS flowchart for Scotland (levels 0-3) and BVA guidance on working safely during Covid-19.

Northern Ireland - lockdown

The Northern Ireland Executive introduced a six-week lockdown on 26 December 2020 and an order for people to stay at home becomes legally enforceable from 00.01hrs Friday 8 January 2021.

Veterinary practices can remain open but BVA and the RCVS agreed that vets should only be undertaking work and seeing patients in-person for essential animal health and welfare reasons or to maintain the food chain.

Veterinary teams should refer to the new BVA guidance which complements the RCVS flowchart for Northern Ireland.

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
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.

Government guidance on NHS Test and Trace in the workplace makes clear that medical-grade PPE should not be purchased to circumvent self-isolation, as this risks disrupting critical supplies needed by the NHS and social care sector.

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

Before booking appointments, we’re advising practices to clarify whether clients are exempt from wearing face coverings and, if clients are exempt, advise clients if any adjustments will be made to how services are provided.

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 a permanent change to their out-of-hours provision, which may have an impact on veterinary professionals. Details on who you can contact at RSPCA out-of-hours are available for members to view in this resource.

Coronavirus and animals

There is limited evidence that some animals, including pets, can contract coronavirus. Cases in pet animals are very rare, and at present the evidence suggests that coronavirus:

  • may pass from infected humans to certain pets such as cats and ferrets following close contact
  • does not easily pass between cats or most other pets, but this cannot be ruled out
  • may pass between ferrets and humans based on the evidence from mink infections

However it is extremely important to reiterate that according to the OIE, the current pandemic is being sustained through human-to-human transmission, and there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of Covid-19.

It is 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. 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]