Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

We've collated some of our most frequently asked questions on coronavirus to help you find the information you're looking for. These questions cover guidance for veterinary professionals, advice for students and the most common questions from pet owners and farmers. 

Jump to:

In the workplace
Travel and quarantine
Medicines
Vulnerable groups
Students
Mental health
Animal owners and breeders

In the workplace

What should I do now as restrictions are removed?

We know that practice teams have been working incredibly hard in difficult circumstances, and we also know that heavy workloads continue to put teams under pressure. Employers should be aware of the importance of supporting all employees’ mental health and wellbeing and should encourage and facilitate team members to take leave and breaks.

The UK governments are now beginning to remove restrictions that were introduced to mitigate the risks of the Omicron variant.  Continue to risk assess and, where possible, work in a manner that reduces close contact in line with government guidance.

Even where face coverings are no longer a legal requirement you can require clients to wear a face covering, unless exempt for medical reasons, as part of your terms of business.

You can refer to BVA guidance on working safely during Covid 19, which includes helpful prompts to consider.  

England

In England, the government has advised that from 19 January 2022 it is no longer asking office workers to work from home if they can. All practices should continue to risk assess and, where possible, work in a manner that reduces close contact in line with government guidance.

Scotland

The Scottish government continues to advise people to work from home if they can. Individual practices should assess whether it’s appropriate for staff members to work from home if possible (for example handling calls and triaging cases). All practices should continue to risk assess and, where possible, work in a manner that reduces close contact in line with government guidance.

Wales

In Wales, from 28 January 2022, the government has advised that working from home remains important but moves from law to guidance. All practices should continue to risk assess and, where possible, work in a manner that reduces close contact in line with government guidance.

Businesses in Wales must legally take all reasonable measures to ensure the 2m rule is maintained between people on their premises whenever work is being carried out. Vets in Wales should make themselves aware of the Welsh Government guidance which explains what can reasonably be expected of employers and businesses.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, people are encouraged to work from home where possible. All practices should continue to risk assess and, where possible, work in a manner that reduces close contact in line with government guidance. Two metre social distancing is required in office settings.

Where do I find previous BVA guidance? You can access previous guidance for veterinary professionals:

You can also access the archive of our webinars on Covid-19 and the veterinary profession, run in partnership with The Webinar Vet. 

Are vets included in the list of critical workers for daily testing in England?

In January 2022 the UK Government announced that 100,000 critical workers would be required to take daily lateral flow tests. Daily tests have been allocated to a number of sectors, including food processing companies (including abattoirs). We expect some or all OVs working in abattoirs will be included in the daily testing, but this has not been extended to other veterinary organisations.

What are the self-isolation rules for vets when it comes to test and trace?

England

If you live with or have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 you do not need to self-isolate if you are fully vaccinated. However, you are strongly advised to do daily lateral flow tests for 7 days and limit contact with people who are at higher risk from Covid-19. For more information see the NHS website.

Scotland

Household contacts of a positive case should self-isolate for the same 10-day period as the positive case, regardless of vaccination status.

Non-household close contacts do not have to isolate if they are fully vaccinated and return a negative PCR test. For more information see the Scottish Government website.

Employers can apply for exemptions for named individuals, subject to meeting certain requirements, by emailing [email protected] setting out your request covering a number of specific factors. See the full details of the process for further information.

Businesses can apply for the scheme if they are classed as a Critical National Infrastructure and meet a number of other requirements. National infrastructure sectors include “food” and the critical element is defined as whether the person’s absence would be likely to lead to the loss or compromise of this infrastructure resulting in one or both of the following:

  • major detrimental impact on the availability, integrity or delivery of essential services—including those services whose integrity, if compromised, could result in significant loss of life or casualties
  • significant impact on national security, national defence, or the functioning of the state

We are waiting to hear if further detailed guidance will be provided for the veterinary sector.

Scottish Government has confirmed vets supporting the food supply chain are classed as part of the Critical National Infrastructure and would qualify for this exemption. Applications for the exemption are being considered on a case-by-case basis based on strict criteria. Read more about the exemption criteria and how to apply.

Wales 

If you are fully vaccinated and identified as a close contact you do not need to self-isolate, but you are strongly advised to take a daily lateral flow test every day for 7 days. You are also advised to inform your employer that you are a close contact of a case of Covid-19 and minimise contact with clinically vulnerable people. See the Welsh Government website for more information.

Northern Ireland

If you are fully vaccinated and identified as a close contact you should self-isolate and book a PCR test as soon as possible. If the PCR test is negative, isolation can stop but you should take a daily lateral flow test every day until the 10th day after your contact. You are also advised to minimise contact with those who are clinically vulnerable. See the NI Direct website for more information.

Do we need to wear face coverings?

Although there will be no legal requirement to wear a face covering in England from 27 January 2022, the government suggests you continue to wear a face covering in crowded and indoor spaces where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet. Businesses can continue to ask staff and clients to wear face coverings, unless exempt, under their own terms of business policies.

Face coverings continue to be a legal requirement in Scotland, Wales and NI.

What is the advice regarding contact tracing, use of PPE and self-isolation?

Vets are not exempt from contact tracing in any part of the UK. If a member of your team tests positive for Covid-19, team members may be contacted and you should follow advice relating to your vaccination status.

However, if vets have been using appropriate PPE in situations where they are unable to limit close contact, this may be taken into account by contact tracers. If you receive a close contact alert advising you to self-isolate, but believe you have been using appropriate PPE, 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.

If a person in my team develops Coronavirus symptoms and self-isolates, does the rest of the team need to self-isolate?

No, as long as you are fully vaccinated. Only people who share a home with someone who is demonstrating symptoms of Coronavirus are required to self-isolate alongside them.

How should I approach a case with suspected clinical signs of coronavirus?

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 SARS-Cov-2:

  • 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, but this is very unlikely in domestic pets

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.

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 .Read the APHA Briefing Note 10/20 Advice for Veterinarians and their Clients on Pets and COVID-19 in full.

NOTE: There is now a legal obligation to report the presence of Covid-19 in all mammals other than man. To report SARS-CoV-2 in England please call the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.  In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. In Northern Ireland, contact DAERA on 0300 200 7840 / 0300 2007852 or contact your local Divisional Veterinary Office.

The UK Government advises that private testing should only be considered in animals which meet all four of the following criteria:

  1. The animal is a Felid, Canid or Mustelid.
  2. It is exhibiting a combination of the following clinical signs as determined by a veterinary professional:
    1. respiratory infection
    2. gastrointestinal infection
    3. fever
  3. other common diagnoses have been considered and discounted as determined by a veterinary professional.
  4. the animal has had confirmed contact with a suspect or known human case of COVID-19 within three weeks of developing clinical signs.

Read the APHA Briefing Note 18/20 SARS-CoV-2 in Animals – Case Definition, Testing and International Reporting Obligations

Please note that when handling wildlife you should be aware of the guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): surveying and mitigation works affecting wildlife

Travel and quarantine 

Are vets exempted from border quarantine?

There are currently (23 December 2021) no red list countries for travel restrictions. When restrictions are in place there are some exemptions to quarantine rules for veterinary surgeons fulfilling certain roles, such as OVs working in the food supply chain.

For the latest information on travel restrictions visit the GOV.UK website.

Medicines

Can I prescribe without seeing the patient?

In response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the RCVS reintroduced remote prescribing temporary measures on 16 December 2021. Please follow the RCVS guidance available in the RCVS Covid FAQ 4. The temporary measures will be kept under review.

Vulnerable groups

What should I do if I'm in a vulnerable group?

Information and advice for people in vulnerable groups, including older people, people with health conditions and those who are pregnant, is available via the NHS.

I’m pregnant. What are the risks and what are my rights?

Pregnant people are in the moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) group designated by government as a precaution and are advised to socially distance themselves and receive Statutory Sick Pay on the production of a fit note. Reg.16 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 imposes a duty on employers to conduct a risk assessment if working conditions could involve risk to a new or expectant mother or their baby. If the assessment reveals any risk to an employee, or their baby, the employer must follow a series of steps to ensure that they are not exposed to the risk or damaged by it. Given that government advice is for pregnant workers to work from home where possible, your employer should take all steps to make this possible.

It may be possible for you to do some work from home, for example triaging calls. BVA members can also speak to the legal advice line, which is a free of charge service available 24/7. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists provides detailed advice on pregnancy and Covid-19.

Students

I’m concerned I may not be able to fulfil my EMS requirements due to Covid-19 restrictions, what should I do?

Read RCVS guidance on temporary EMS requirements.

Read the VSC statement on schools’ responses to Covid-19.

All students have access to the BVA Carpool Cases online EMS series, which has been accepted by most of the UK vet schools and certificates are available. In addition, the RCVS has a useful list of online pre-clinical EMS resources.

Mental Health

How do I protect my mental wellbeing at this difficult time?

Take a look at the Vetlife website for tips on self-care and read the Vetlife Covid-19 FAQs for the veterinary community. Charities such as Mind also have helpful tips on maintaining positive mental wellbeing. The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative is also offering a range of online wellbeing resources to support the veterinary team.

What do I do if I have a concern about my own, or a colleague’s mental health?

Take a look at the Vetlife website for tips on dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. If you need to speak to someone in confidence Vetlife Helpline is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, on 0303 040 2551 or you can send an anonymous email via the website. Support is also available via Vet Support NI and Vet Support Scotland.

Animal owners and breeders

Are vet practices open?

Vet practices have remained open throughout the pandemic but may have had to reduce their services in order to balance animal health and welfare, public health, your safety and the safety of their teams. As always, decisions will vary between practices and in different parts of the country.

You may be asked to wear a face covering or meet physical distancing requirements, even if this is no longer a legal requirement.

We’re asking the public to respect their veterinary teams and understand that they are doing their very best with a challenging workload.

Can my pet contract coronavirus and pass it to humans?

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

If you suspect your pet has contracted coronavirus your vet will need to rule out other causes for their symptoms first.

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” (ie surfaces where the virus may be picked up via touch), 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. In line with public health guidance, you should:

  • wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food and bedding
  • not share food with your pet
  • avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling if you are self-isolating

There is no evidence that you need to wash your pets to control the spread of coronavirus. Only wash or use products on your pets that are approved for use on animals.

NOTE: There is now a legal obligation to report the presence of Covid-19 in all mammals other than humans. Your vet will let you know if this is what they need to do.

How should I care for my pets if I have symptoms of or have confirmed Covid-19?

The OIE recommends that people who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with the Covid-19 virus should minimise close direct contact with animals. Read the OIE Questions and answers on the novel Coronavirus in full.

Government advice is that owners of pets in households with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, who think their pet may need veterinary treatment, should make contact with the practice first and alert them to the household’s status. Read the Defra Covid-19 advice for people with animals.

What is the updated advice for ferret owners?

Ferrets are known to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19. As a precautionary measure, the UK governments are advising that if you own a ferret, you must isolate your ferret for 21 days if:

  • you or your household are self-isolating (owners do not need to isolate for 21days and should complete the regular 10 day isolation period, however your ferret must stay indoors until their specific three week (21 day) isolation period is complete.)
  • You’ve recently travelled with your ferret into the UK from certain countries. Read the specific government guidance for ferret owners and travel in EnglandWalesScotland, and Northern Ireland.

Isolation means avoiding contact with either ferrets or people from other households (eg. taking your ferret for walks). If your ferret needs emergency veterinary care, you can arrange to have it taken to the vet but you should notify your veterinary practice of the situation.

In line with public health guidance, you should:

  • wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food and bedding
  • not share food with your pet
  • avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling if you are self-isolating

Read APHA’s Guidance on Preventative Measures regarding SARs-CoV-2 and Ferrets in the UK

If you are self-isolating for Covid-19, the Scottish Government also advise that you should ask someone else to care for your ferrets. Otherwise you should always wear a facemask and gloves, avoid kissing and cuddling the animals, make sure you wash your hands and limit the time spent with animals.

DAERA advice for Northern Ireland also states that you should avoid contact with ferrets if you have had a positive Covid-19 test or have symptoms suggestive of it. If you are the ferret carer, someone else will need to look after the ferret if possible. If this is not possible, you should wear a facemask and gloves.

Read the specific government guidance for ferret owners in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. 

In June the GB Ferret (and other Mustelinae) Register was launched. Registration is voluntary in Scotland, England and Wales, but the intention is to make this register compulsory in the near future. Government will use this information to determine the size and location of the kept ferret population. In the event of a suspected or confirmed case, or cases, of COVID-19 associated with kept ferrets or other Mustelinae, you will be contacted by APHA and provided with information and guidance on disease prevention measures.

If you are a keeper in England please register or call 0800 6341 112.

If you are a keeper in Scotland please register, or call 01466 794323.

If you are a keeper in Wales please register, or call 0800 6341 112.