Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) on coronavirus for veterinary professionals and the public 

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. 

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In the workplace

How does the UK Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy affect veterinary practice?

On 11 May the UK Government issued guidance for the public and businesses on easing the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in England in steps: ‘Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy’. In addition, the government published guidance on making workplaces “Covid-19 Secure”.

The governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have published separate plans to ease lockdown restrictions in those countries.

Read the BVA updated guidance for UK veterinary practices on working safely during Covid-19.

What advice is there for vet practices during the Wales firebreak lockdown?

The First Minister announced a 17-day ‘firebreak lockdown’ to commence at 6pm on Friday 23 October and run until midnight Sunday 8 November affecting the whole of Wales. We’ve received the following update from Welsh Government on how impacts vet practices:

  • Veterinary practices in Wales can continue to operate during the firebreak period, but for essential and urgent work only. As much non-urgent veterinary work as possible should be postponed.
  • The purpose of the firebreak is to prevent non-essential travel and mixing of people. Veterinary practices can and should play their part in bringing this about and use their professional judgement to determine what cases and procedures are urgent, bearing in mind the short duration of the firebreak lockdown. 
  • As highly regarded health professionals, veterinary surgeons also have an important role to play in setting a good example to the public and being exemplars of best practice of infection control.
  • Welsh Government are not instructing the APHA and Official Veterinarians to postpone testing for bovine tuberculosis. The need to protect against diseases that threaten animal and public health continues through the firebreak period.
  • Pets may be exercised but dogs should be kept on a lead to avoid the potential of having to mix with other people to restrain them.
  • Further information is available on the Welsh Government website.

We’re asking members to support these efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Wales and the rest of the UK. We recognise that practices are very stretched and you will need to manage this in a way that is right for your practice, your colleagues and your clients.

To support vet practices, we are signposting to our previous guidance that was in place in April during the UK-wide lockdown. This guidance sets out what constitutes essential veterinary care and can be used as a guide to which services may or may not be appropriate during the firebreak lockdown. As always, it is essential that veterinary professionals exercise professional judgement in deciding which cases need to be seen in person.

What should I do if my practice is in a local lockdown area?

Within a local lockdown area veterinary practices can remain open but are asked to observe strict social distancing measures. Practices will need to use their clinical and professional judgement on a case by case basis and follow the RCVS flowchart. We’re also asking neighbouring practices to support one another during these difficult times, including those outside of the local lockdown area.

NOTE: in Scotland veterinary practices are classed as retail spaces, and from early October, shops across Scotland were asked to return to two metres physical distancing and reintroduce the mitigations they put in place earlier in the pandemic, including one-way systems.

How do I minimise client contact?

  • Risk assess all in-person work.
  • Clarify the client’s medical status with regard to Covid-19 before booking any appointments.
  • Advise owners coming into the practice (eg for a euthanasia) on what to expect, including that it may look and feel different to normal due to social distancing measures.
  • Only allow one client per animal, where possible.
  • Consider asking clients, if possible, to wear cloth face coverings when inside the practice.
  • Continue to ask clients to wait outside the consult room and, if necessary, outside the premises.
  • Obtain histories and discuss and agree treatment plans remotely.
  • Use technology to triage and consult whenever possible and appropriate.
  • Consider remote prescribing in line with RCVS guidance 
  • Obtain payment remotely.
  • Ensure contact-free collection of medication is in place, with a specific, secure collection time and place organised in advance.
  • Post medication if appropriate following Post Office guidance and, where applicable, following RCVS controlled drugs guidance.

How do I minimise contact within the team?

Minimise staff contact in the workplace as much as possible:

  • Stagger arrival, departure, and break times.
  • Reduce congestion, for example, by having more and separate entry and exit points to the workplace.
  • Work in consistent pairs or small teams, if possible, for those who need to work in close proximity, for example, work that involves lifting or restraining animals and surgical procedures.
  • Allocate teams to specific workspaces (such as consult rooms and theatres) and avoid sharing equipment where possible, such as pens, stethoscopes, and otoscopes.
  • Don’t share food and other provisions.
  • Administrative staff and vets/VNs carrying out triage may still be able to work from home, if appropriate. 

Read the BVA updated guidance for UK veterinary practices on working safely during Covid-19 for further details on re-thinking physical space and layout and working out of vehicles in ambulatory practice.

Do we need to wear face coverings?

Face coverings are mandatory on public transport and in shops in England, Scotland and Wales. Face coverings are not intended to protect the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you are asymptomatic. Do not get a false sense of security about the level of protection provided by wearing a face covering. It is essential that everyone continues to:

  • practise social distancing as much as humanly possible
  • wash their hands thoroughly throughout the day
  • ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’ when they sneeze or cough

England - Face coverings must be worn by retail, leisure and hospitality staff working in areas that are open to the public and where they’re likely to come into contact with a member of the public. Vet practices are not explicitly listed here but the guidance states that for other indoor settings, employers should assess the use of face coverings on a case by case basis depending on the workplace environment, other appropriate mitigations they have put in place, and whether reasonable exemptions apply.

Members of the public must, by law, wear a face covering in veterinary practices in England, unless they are exempt for age, health, or equality reasons. Premises where face coverings are required are encouraged to take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law and could refuse entry to anyone who does not have a valid exemption, however, there is not an expectation that veterinary practices should police the law, and you should be mindful that some people may not be able to wear a face covering for various reasons. More information is available on the government website.

Scotland - Veterinary practices are classed as retail space in legislation and therefore staff, employees, and volunteers must wear a face covering unless they are separated by a partition, or maintain a distance of 2 metres It is important to remember that members of staff may be exempt from wearing a face covering for age, health or equality reasons).

Members of the public must also by law, wear a face covering in veterinary practices in Scotland, unless they are exempt for age, health, or equality reasons. Premises where face coverings are required are encouraged to take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law and could refuse entry to anyone who does not have a valid exemption, however, there is not an expectation that veterinary practices should police the law, and you should be mindful that some people may not be able to wear a face covering for various reasons. More information is available on the government website

Wales Members of staff are required to wear a face covering in any indoor public space (i.e. any part of a premises that clients have access to). Further guidance can be found here: https://gov.wales/face-coverings-guidance-public Employers in Wales are also required to mandate the use of face coverings in indoor workplaces where social distancing cannot be maintained, unless there are strong reasons not to. More information for employers in Wales is available on the Welsh government website

Members of the public must also by law, wear a face covering in veterinary practices in Wales, unless they are exempt for age, health, or equality reasons. Premises where face coverings are required are encouraged to take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law and could refuse entry to anyone who does not have a valid exemption, however, there is not an expectation that veterinary practices should police the law, and you should be mindful that some people may not be able to wear a face covering for various reasons. More information is available on the government website.

Northern Ireland - In Northern Ireland, it is mandatory to wear a face covering in a relevant place. A relevant place generally means a shop or shopping centre. As well as ordinary day to day shopping for items, a face covering is required in any other indoor place where goods or services are available to buy or rent.

It is not mandatory to wear a face covering in a business that is able to maintain social distancing by using a system of ticketing or appointments. However, it is strongly advised that you should think about using face coverings in circumstances - short periods in enclosed spaces - where social distancing is not possible.

What should I do if my employer is not following Government ‘Covid-19 Secure’ guidance?

We are all responsible for slowing the spread of Covid-19. Veterinary practices should only be providing in-person services that are needed to maintain the food supply chain, or which are essential for animal health and welfare or public health, including to relieve pain and suffering.

If you have concerns as to how your employer is implementing these measures, please contact the BVA legal helpline and consult the ACAS specific coronavirus guidance for employers and employees.

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 who are classed as contacts will be required to self-isolate. It is vital that team members continue to socially distance as much as possible within the workplace to mitigate the risk of interactions being considered as ‘contacts’.

However, if vets have been using appropriate PPE in situations where they are unable to socially distance, this may be taken into account by contact tracers. Below is a summary of the guidance we have received from each country within the UK.

England In response to our lobbying, Public Health England has now updated its advice. If you test positive, the PPE you have been wearing will be discussed and taken into account before any decisions are made in relation to the impact on contacts within your veterinary workplace setting.  

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 Senior Vice President, Daniella Dos Santos

Current guidance from PHE and NHS on appropriate PPE in human healthcare settings is available online

Scotland - 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.

Using the NHS Scotland Test and Protect app when wearing PPE

Scottish Government guidance advises that all app users should keep their phone on and with them whenever possible, with the app active on their phone at all times except in a small number of circumstances:

  • If the user is a health or social care worker in a clinical setting, wearing medical grade PPE. This includes ambulance personnel
  • If the user is protected by a fixed physical barrier from customers and colleagues such as a Perspex screen for most of the working day. This doesn’t apply for those who constantly move around (e.g. café workers behind tills with a screen who also move around the café)
  • If the user keeps their phone in a locker or equivalent facility at work and not on their person

In these circumstances, ideally individuals should turn off their phone as that means the app will automatically continue to work when the phone is turned back on again. However, it is recognised that that is not always possible so alternatively users can choose to disable Bluetooth. It is also possible for users to turn off the Exposure Notification Setting on their mobile phone. This will turn off the ‘contact tracing' functionality until the Exposure Notification Setting is switched back on. The user will need to remember to turn their Exposure Notification Settings and/or Bluetooth back on.

If you receive a close contact alert advising you to self-isolate, but believe you meet one of the above scenarios, 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.

The app should NOT be switched off in the following scenarios:

  • Where PPE, including visors and face coverings, is used in non-clinical settings (e.g. building sites, café’s, transport, by fire and police personnel etc.)
  • In the home or vehicles (signals from adjoining properties or vehicles are unlikely to result in a contact alert)

Wales - Welsh Government has not issued specific guidance on the use of PPE in relation to contact tracing. When the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) service contacts an individual who tested positive they will seek as much information as possible on the particular situation and any mitigating measures in place such as protective screens, adherence to the 2m distancing rule, etc. In correspondence with BVA, Welsh Government said: “The decision on whether an individual in the veterinary profession is determined a contact and asked to self-isolate will vary dramatically based on the specific circumstances of the exposure to the index case, and so must be assessed by an NHS Wales TTP contact tracer on a case by case basis.”

Northern Ireland – The Northern Ireland executive has not issued specific guidance on the use of PPE in relation to contact tracing.

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

No. Only people who share a home with someone who is demonstrating symptoms of Coronavirus are required to self-isolate alongside them. You should ensure that your workplace is implementing the ‘Covid-19 Secure’ guidelines and that animals are only seen face-to-face where absolutely necessary.

Read government guidance on self-isolating

How do I create a QR code for the practice?

This service is only available in England and Wales. It allows visitors to scan the QR code when they arrive, using the NHS COVID-19 app.

More information is available on the government website.

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

The OIE states that there is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected humans, however it is important to emphasise that the virus in pet animals is a rare occurrence. 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. The main mode of transmission remains human-to-human.

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.

From the small number of cases reported in companion animals, it appears that dogs do not show symptoms, but cats can show clinical signs of the disease. Based on reported cases and knowledge of other Coronaviruses in pet animal species, presenting signs might include fever, malaise, respiratory and/or gastro-intestinal tract problems. There is currently no treatment for the virus itself.

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.

Tests to confirm the virus in companion animals are under development and the first will launch in the UK shortly.

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:
    • respiratory infection
    • gastrointestinal infection
    • 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

Can I get tested for Covid-19?

As part of the government’s strategy for coronavirus testing, they are testing people who have coronavirus-like symptoms to see if they currently have the virus. Testing is most effective within 3 days of symptoms developing.

 If you’re in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and have any of the symptoms of coronavirus, you can ask for a test through the NHS website.

 If you’re an essential worker in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can apply for priority testing through by following the guidance for essential workers. You can also get tested through this route if you have symptoms of coronavirus and live with an essential worker.

 In Wales critical workers  who are symptomatic also have priority access to testing and can book a slot at a mass drive-through testing centre or mobile testing unit. Full details for testing in Wales can be found here. This includes those involved in the production and supply of food and key public service workers.

How should we provide care for pets from households with owners who are in vulnerable groups?

Some clients may be social distancing to protect their own health, if they have underlying health conditions or are over 70 for example. The APHA Briefing Note 10/20 Advice for Veterinarians and their Clients on Pets and COVID-19 sets out that to support these clients, consider organising collection or posting of medication. A friend or relative may be able to visit the practice with the pet. However, if this is not possible, consider other ways in which you may be able to support the owner and pet such as:

  • Advising the owner to wait in the car outside
  • Visiting at a quiet time of the day
  • Planning consultations with extra time either side
  • Carrying out the consultation without the owner being present with their input via a
  • telephone conversation
  • Organising a home visit (See FAQ on conducting home visits below)
  • Advising the owner to wait in the car outside
  • Visiting at a quiet time of the day
  • Planning consultations with extra time either side
  • Carrying out the consultation without the owner being present with their input via a
  • telephone conversation
  • Organising a home visit (See FAQ on conducting home visits below)

How will restrictions in veterinary services impact on pet insurance?

Pet insurance members of the Association of Business Insurers (ABI) have agreed to provide support to customers wherever they can to ensure pets receive the care they need. This includes being flexible on policy conditions, in particular the requirement for pets to have up to date vaccinations and regular dental examinations. Read the ABI statement in full: Covid-19 – Pet Insurers agree commitments to reassure Britain's 7.7 million pet insurance customers.

Can I still do home visits?

You should risk assess and plan ahead for home visits.

For all home visits:

  • Discuss plans in advance with householders to confirm how you intend to work.
  • Make sure they understand the social distancing and hygiene measures that need to be followed and manage their expectations.
  • Minimise contact with the client and where face-to-face interaction is required, then this should only be with one person per visit. Ask the client to secure the animal ahead of the visit.
  • Ask householders to leave all internal doors open to minimise contact with door handles.
  • Use a fixed pairing system if you have to work in close proximity.
  • Allocate the same person to the same household if multiple visits are required

When visiting a household where someone is clinically vulnerable (but has not been asked to shield):

  • Make arrangements to avoid any face-to-face contact.
  • Be particularly strict about handwashing and other hygiene measures.

If you are requested to assist with an animal in an infected or suspected household:

  • Follow RCVS advice and APHA advice
  • There is no expectation that vets should attend an infected or suspected household, in line with the RCVS Code supporting guidance (3.37f and 3.43)
  • Wear appropriate PPE
  • Mitigate the risks, for example, by arranging to see the animal outside the home, ie in a garden or garage.

For further advice and guidance see also the ‘Covid-19 Secure’ guidelines on working in other people’s homes (applicability is England only but the generic advice may be useful across the UK).

What about the Canine Health Schemes?

The CHS team are processing and scoring weekly by date received order and currently have an approximate turnaround time of 8 to 10 weeks. They are unable to fast-track any submissions.

Payment can only be taken once the submission has been received, so please wait for at least two weeks before calling to make payment.

To make a payment by card for postal submissions, please call the office on 02070986380.

When calling please provide with the following information:

Date of radiography

Kennel Club/microchip number

name and address of the veterinary practice

For more information please visit the CHS pages

Will bTB testing continue?

OVs can continue with bTB testing across Great Britain for now, but only if it can be carried out safely under guidance relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. All vets must consider if social distancing can be maintained, and if it cannot the test should not be undertaken. APHA released a TB testing briefing note covering England and Wales and Scotland.

In England and Wales, calves under 180 days old at the start of a routine or targeted herd surveillance TB test can be excluded from skin testing in officially TB free herds if, in the vet’s judgement, they can’t be tested safely in line with social distancing. This temporary amendment will be applied retrospectively to incomplete tests where the final part of the test would have commenced on or after 23 March 2020, and to any qualifying tests from now on until further notice.

For herds in England and Wales whose Officially TB Free status has been suspended (OTFS) or withdrawn (OTFW), a temporary amendment will allow further herd testing to be scheduled even though some or all eligible calves under 180 days old have not been tested. When eligible animals under 180 days old have been excluded from a test due to the requirement to maintain social distancing, the test will be considered a Check test and further Short Interval testing will be scheduled.

In Northern Ireland the default position is that TB testing visits should no longer be carried out. Under exceptional circumstances, tests may continue if they can be done safely in accordance with the public health guidance. From 4 May 2020 calves under 180 days old may be exempt from all bTB herd test types if they cannot be tested safely in accordance with social distancing guidance. This will allow more herd tests to proceed safely.

In Scotland, normal TB testing procedures still apply. If it’s not possible to safely TB test calves whilst maintaining social distancing, the vet must record this on the test chart and the test will be incomplete. If the test is not completed within the testing window, then the whole test will become overdue.

Are vets exempt from border quarantine? 

There are some exemptions to the new UK border rules which can apply to some veterinary surgeons. Note that being classed as a key worker does not automatically qualify you as exempt from the quarantine rules.

The quarantine exemptions are different for each of the regions of the UK:

  • England – Veterinary surgeons involved in the food supply chain, and Official Veterinarians (OVs) working on official controls at the border are exempt from the quarantine rules when they travel to the UK to commence or resume work. Other vets (eg companion animal vets) are not exempt. Those veterinary surgeons involved in the food supply chain are exempt under this guideline, with the food supply being covered under ‘goods’. In addition, there are exemptions for qualified persons and responsible persons for human and veterinary medicines, clinical trials, clinical investigations and pharmacovigilance. The full list of exemptions is available on the government website.
  • Wales - There are exemptions in place for certain veterinary professionals, including those involved in the production, supply, movement, manufacture, storage or preservation of goods; those involved in veterinary medicines for the purposes of clinical trials; and those involved in veterinary medicines for the purposes of quality assurance. Please refer to the full list of exemptions on the Welsh government website.
  • Scotland - There are no specific quarantine exemptions for veterinary professionals. Please refer to the Scottish government website.
  • Northern Ireland - The categories of veterinary professionals exempt from quarantine mirror those exempt for England, namely Veterinary surgeons involved in the food supply chain and qualified persons and responsible persons for human and veterinary medicines, clinical trials, clinical investigations and pharmacovigilance. Please refer to the full list of exemptions on the NI government website.

In addition, please refer to your employer’s protocols for the interpretation of legislation for your specific work and personal situation.

Government support for businesses

What is furloughing and how does it work?

Employers can bring back to work employees that have previously been furloughed for any amount of time and any shift patterns, while still being able to claim the grant for their normal hours not worked. When claiming the grant for furloughed hours; employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week. This is only open to people who are already using the scheme. Further details about this will be released soon.

See more on the GOV.UK website about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

If your employee is on sick leave or self-isolating, they’ll be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). You cannot claim for employees while they’re getting SSP. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness. If you want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, you are eligible to do so, as with other employees. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee.

Furloughed employees retain their right to SSP. This means that furloughed employees who become ill must be paid at least SSP. It is up to employers to decide whether to move these employees onto Statutory Sick Pay or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate. If a furloughed employee who becomes sick is moved onto SSP, employers can no longer claim for the furloughed salary.

Employers are required to pay SSP themselves, although may qualify for a rebate for up to 2 weeks of SSP through the Statutory Sick Pay rebate scheme. If employers keep the sick furloughed employee on the furloughed rate, they remain eligible to claim for these costs through the furloughed scheme. You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Statutory Sick Pay rebate scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time.

You can claim for furloughed employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) if they are unable to work from home and you would otherwise have to make them redundant. Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed.

What is the Job Support Scheme?

The Job Support Scheme is designed to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to Covid-19. It will come into effect as the Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme closes.

The company will continue to pay its employee for time worked, but the cost of hours not worked will be split between the employer, the Government (through wage support) and the employee (through a wage reduction), and the employee will keep their job.

The Government will pay a third of hours not worked up to a cap, with the employer also contributing a third. This will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages. The Government contribution will be capped at £697.92 a month.

Employees must be on an employer’s PAYE payroll on or before 23 September 2020. For the first three months of the scheme the employee must work at least 33% of their usual hours. Employees will be able to cycle on and off the scheme and do not have to be working the same pattern each month, but each short time working arrangement must cover a minimum period of seven days.

The scheme will be open from 1 November 2020 to the end of April 2021. Employers will be able to make a claim online through Gov.uk from December 2020. They will be paid on a monthly basis. Grants will be payable in arrears meaning that a claim can only be submitted in respect of a given pay period, after payment to the employee has been made and that payment has been reported to HMRC.

What if I am a locum or self-employed?

  • There is a separate Self-employment Income Support Scheme for the self-employed or members of a partnership.

    Applications for the second grant opened on 17 August. If you're eligible and your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020, you must make your claim for the second grant on or before 19 October 2020. Individuals will be able to claim a second taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

    The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants, and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant: for example, they may only have been adversely affected by COVID-19 in this later phase.

    You can check online to see if you are eligible for the grant and make a claim. If you’re unable to claim online you should contact HMRC for help.

    Directors who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by the scheme but if you are paid through PAYE you may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

    The government is also providing the following additional help for the self-employed:

A grant extension has now been announced for self-employed individuals. This is open to those who:

  • currently be eligible for the the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (although they do not have to have claimed the previous grants)
  • declare that they are currently actively trading and intend to continue to trade
  • declare that they are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus in the qualifying period (the qualifying period for the grant extension is between 1 November and the date of claim)

The extension will provide two grants and will last for six months, from November 2020 to April 2021. Grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering a three-month period.The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November until the end of January. HMRC will provide a taxable grant covering 20 per cent of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £1,875 in total.

The second grant will cover a three-month period from the start of February until the end of April. HMRC will review the level of the second grant and set this in due course.The grants are subject to Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions.

HMRC will provide full details about claiming and applications in guidance on GOV.UK in due course.

Can I take holidays/ annual leave during this time?

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) advises that in most situations, employees and workers should use their paid holiday in their current leave year. This is important because taking holiday helps people:

  • get enough rest
  • keep healthy (physically and mentally)

During the coronavirus outbreak, it may not be possible for staff to take all their holiday entitlement during the current holiday year. Employers should still be encouraging workers and employees to take their paid holiday. Employees and workers should also make requests for paid holiday throughout their holiday year, if possible.

The government has introduced a temporary new law allowing employees and workers to carry over up to 4 weeks’ paid holiday over a 2-year period. This law applies for any holiday the employee does not take because of coronavirus. Some employers will already have an agreement to carry over paid holiday. This law does not affect any agreements already in place.

If an employee is furloughed, they can still request and take their holiday in the usual way. Furloughed workers must get their usual pay in full, for any holiday they take. If they are normally entitled to take bank holidays, then this also applies during furlough.

What support is there for veterinary businesses?

The government has set out a package of measures to support businesses through this period. There are some different schemes available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Veterinary practices may be able to access:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

Medicines

Can I prescribe without seeing the patient?

Under normal circumstances the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons does not allow veterinary surgeons to prescribe veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) without a physical examination of the animal(s) having first taken place. However, in March RCVS Council decided that there should be a temporary departure from this position under the current exceptional circumstances. Read the RCVS announcement. This position was revised at the end of June and a six-week extension applied. Read the RCVS statement.

What medicines can be posted?

The Post Office provides guidance on what prescription medicines can be sent through the post for medical purposes.

What about VMD inspections?

VMD re-started on-site inspections of manufacturers, wholesalers, vet practices, feed business operators and SQP retailer premises on 24 August.

How should we be storing our controlled drugs?

As a result of the current situation, there has been a reduction in illicit drugs available on the streets, including heroin, crack cocaine etc. Consequently, the police are warning hospitals pharmacies and veterinary practices of the risk posed to them from offenders who are now targeting pharmaceutical drugs instead. You should continue to follow BVA and RCVS guidelines on the storage and supply of controlled drugs. If you find anyone acting suspiciously within or outside your practice, please call 999 or 101.

Vulnerable groups

What is ‘shielding’ and how has government advice changed?

Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. At the start of the pandemic, this meant minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others. As we transition out of lockdown, the UK governments are updating their guidance for those who are shielding to reflect the fall in Covid-19 disease levels.

Read the most up-to-date guidance on shielding from each of the UK nations:

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

Pregnant people are in the vulnerable group designated by government 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

What do I do about EMS placements?

In August RCVS, VSC, and BVA wrote to UK veterinary practices to seek their ongoing help and support for veterinary students and student veterinary nurses (SVNs) in the face of the significant disruption to their education and training caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A summary of the temporary EMS requirements for each year group is available on the RCVS website.

 

be checked with the relevant vet school. If you are hoping to go ahead with an EMS placement, speak to the EMS coordinator at the vet school for

What job opportunities are there in the current climate for final year students?

We recognise this is a worrying time for students due to graduate this year and many final year students may be concerned that they won’t be able to find a job in the current climate.

Governments in Great Britain have put out a call to final year vet students to fill vital veterinary public health roles that keep the livestock food chain moving to ensure our safe food supply and to protect animal health and welfare. This could be the beginning of a successful career in public help or within the civil service. There are various opportunities available in England, Scotland and Wales in this important area of work to suit your particular circumstances. Roles include a training, mentoring and further development programme which may allow migration into a full Official Veterinarian role post-graduation.

Visit My Vet Future for more content and ideas around veterinary careers, as well as links to job adverts.

We recommend that you don’t take on unpaid or voluntary veterinary work in veterinary practices. While these offers may seem attractive to newly qualified vets who want to gain access to veterinary workplaces, we are concerned that they devalue the individuals involved. If you have completed your studies, you are qualified and should be treated as such. Read our joint statement with AVS.

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, everyday 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.

How you can help

How can I help support the NHS?

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, everyday 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.

Can I work as a clinical contact caseworker?

RCVS has spoken to the relevant authorities in England, Scotland and Wales about what insurance implications there may be for veterinary professionals undertaking this role. These are as follows:

  • England Veterinary professionals who are engaged by NHS Professionals to undertake test and trace duties for the Department of Health and Social Care/Public Health England are covered for clinical negligence risks under the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Coronavirus, which is administered by NHS Resolution on behalf of the Secretary of State.
  • Scotland: Veterinary professionals employed by, or volunteering for, an NHS Scotland Board are covered for clinical negligence risks by the Clinical Negligence and Other Risks Indemnity Scheme (CNORIS), managed by NHS National Services Scotland. Employment in a contact tracer role by NHS Scotland would be via an NHS Scotland Board and therefore covered by CNORIS.
  • Wales and Northern Ireland: clarification currently being sought

Animal owners and breeders

Are vet practices in the UK open?

Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK many vet practices have remained open to provide essential care to protect the health and welfare of animals and support the food supply chain. Most vet practices are currently open and adapting to provide a more normal range of services whilst protecting the safety of pet owners and the veterinary team.

Please always call your veterinary practice first to arrange the best approach to meet your pet’s needs at this time. Veterinary practices will be risk assessing each case using their professional and clinical judgement to assess whether in-person treatment is required, or whether services could be provided remotely. Remote services, such as teleconsultations, may also be charged for.

Within a local lockdown area veterinary practices can remain open but are asked to observe strict social distancing measures. Practices will need to use their clinical and professional judgement on a case by case basis and may not be able to see your animal immediately.

As with all aspects of life during the Covid-19 pandemic, you should follow social distancing measures when interacting with your veterinary surgery. This may mean you need to wait in the car and allow your vet to assess your pet alone. You should call you surgery first if you think your pet needs to be seen by a vet.

Your veterinary surgery will be able to offer you advice on the social distancing measures they have put in place. Vets will be working in line with national and devolved legislation and local guidance to keep you and their teams safe.

In England, Scotland, and Wales, members of the public must, by law, wear a face covering in veterinary practices, unless they are exempt for age, health, or equality reasons. Premises where face coverings are required are encouraged to take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law and could refuse entry to anyone who does not have a valid exemption, however, there is not an expectation that veterinary practices should police the law, and you should be mindful that some people may not be able to wear a face covering for various reasons. More information is available on the government website.

As always, decisions will vary between practices and in different parts of the country. Vets are working hard to balance animal health and welfare, public health, your safety and the safety of their teams. We’re asking the public to respect their veterinary teams and understand that they are doing their very best in difficult circumstances.

Can my pet contract coronavirus and pass it to humans?

There is currently no definitive evidence that pets can pass Covid-19 to their owners. According to the OIE, the current spread of Covid-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission, and, to date, there is no reason to conclude that companion animals can spread the disease. The OIE states that there is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected humans.  

From the small number of cases it appears that dogs do not show symptoms, but cats can show clinical signs of the disease.

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.

There continues to be no evidence that infected pets can pass Covid-19 to their owners, and there is no evidence to suggest that companion animals that have been infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of Covid-19 back to humans.

Pet owners with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 should:

  • Restrict contact with pets as a precautionary measure.
  • If your pet requires care, wash your hands before and after any interaction with them and wear a face mask if possible.
  • Keep cats indoors if possible, and only if they are happy to be indoors. Try to arrange for someone else to exercise dogs, taking care to restrict any contact with the person walking your dog and making sure they practise good hand hygiene. This is to reduce the likelihood of your pet spreading the disease through environmental contamination on their fur – there is no evidence that pet animals can pass Covid-19 to humans.
  • If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice first and alert them to the household’s status.
  • If your pet requires essential treatment, call the practice for further advice. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless the vet instructs you to. You may need to arrange for someone else to transport your pet for treatment.

Read our statement.

How can I walk someone else’s dog safely?

You should only be walking someone else’s dog if, due to their individual circumstances, they are unable to do so themselves. This includes people who are key workers (NHS staff or similar), shielded (at particular risk from Coronavirus) or the vulnerable and over 70s or people from a self-isolating household confirmed or suspected of having Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Read the Canine and Feline Sector Group’s practical advice on how to walk someone else’s dog safely

How should I care for my animal if I have Covid-19, am self-isolating or social distancing?

The OIE recommend 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 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.

Our advice for pet owners diagnosed with Covid-19 or self-isolating with symptoms is:

  • Restrict contact with pets as a precautionary animal health measure until more information is known about the virus.
  • If your pet requires care, wash your hands before and after any interaction with them and wear a face mask if possible.
  • Keep cats indoors if possible, and only if they are happy to be indoors, and try to arrange for someone else to exercise dogs, taking care to restrict any contact with the person walking your dog and making sure they practise good hygiene. This is to reduce the likelihood of your pet spreading the disease through environmental contamination on their fur – there is no evidence that pet animals can pass Covid-19 to humans.
  • If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice and alert them to the household’s status. 
  • If your pet requires essential treatment, call the practice for further advice. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless the vet instructs you to. You may need to arrange for someone else to transport your pet for treatment.

The following useful guidance documents have also been produced for animal owners on how to look after animals during the Covid-19 pandemic:

Can companion animal breeding still go ahead?

In line with government guidance for employers and businesses, breeders that are considered as businesses may continue to operate.  However, we consider that there is no animal welfare justification for the continuation of companion animal breeding at this time. We would therefore advise against breeding companion animals during the lockdown period.

Can puppies and kittens go to their new home during lock down?

Please note: We’re advising against breeding companion animals during the lockdown period. This advice pertains to existing litters or litters already in utero. We consider that there is no animal welfare justification for the continuation of companion animal breeding at this time.

We recognise that there will be litters of puppies and kittens that are ready to be rehomed, or litters already in utero. Given the potential welfare implications if these puppies and kittens were not rehomed, it is appropriate to rehome these animals if they are at least 8 weeks of age and can be viewed remotely with their mother and litter mates.

In line with government advice on social distancing, prospective owners should not visit the litter and the mother in person, instead they should view the puppy/kitten, its mother and litter mates remotely eg. via videocall.

We understand that Defra is advising that prospective pet owners should not be leaving their home to collect their new pets at this time as it is considered as non-essential travel. However, breeders that are considered a business may take puppies or kittens to their new home providing that rehoming can be carried out while practising strict social distancing. 

Further detail on how breeders can rehome litters safely is available in the CFSG guidance for pet businesses. Welsh Government have also produced animal businesses rescue and rehoming coronavirus guidance.

This notes that purchasers may collect a puppy or kitten by prior arrangement when the sale has already been agreed. The pet must be at least eight weeks of age and any viewing of them with their mother and litter mates can be achieved remotely if necessary due to movement restrictions.

Handover should take place in a room or space large enough for the breeder/transporter and purchaser to maintain their social distance (2m should be adhered to where possible). No equipment such as a basket should be given by the breeder to the purchaser.

Paperwork and other checks and documentation should be predominantly completed ahead of the meeting. Prior to the acquisition of the puppy or kitten, the purchaser should be given advice on immediate care of them including what food to purchase and allowing them to settle in their new home.

Can I get my new puppy or kitten?

If you’re considering getting a pet at this time, we recommend that you carefully read the Puppy Contract or Kitten Checklist to reflect on whether you can meet their welfare needs beyond lockdown, and that any pet is suitable for your or your family’s lifestyle in the long-term.

Handover should take place in a room or space large enough for the breeder/transporter and purchaser to maintain their social distance (2m should be adhered to where possible). No equipment such as a basket should be given by the breeder to the purchaser.

Paperwork and other checks and documentation should be predominantly completed ahead of the meeting. Prior to the acquisition of the puppy or kitten, the purchaser should be given advice on immediate care of them including what food to purchase and allowing them to settle in their new home.

What fees should my practice be charging over this period?

RCVS supporting guidance notes that a veterinary surgeon is entitled to charge a fee for the provision of services. Provision of services includes remote consultation and you should expect to be charged for a consultation with your vet even if it’s provided by phone/video. Fees charged during this period might change to reflect the costs associated with providing an essential service under social distancing requirements. As always, all pricing practices should comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and other consumer protection legislation. Clients should be provided with clear and easy to understand information about how fees are calculated and what is being charged for.

What about Canine Health Schemes?

The CHS team are processing and scoring weekly by date received order and currently have an approximate turnaround time of 8 to 10 weeks. They are unable to fast-track any submissions.

Payment can only be taken once the submission has been received, so please wait for at least two weeks before calling to make payment.

To make a payment by card for postal submissions, please call the office on 02070986380.

When calling please provide with the following information:

Date of radiography

Kennel Club/microchip number

name and address of the veterinary practice

For more information please visit the CHS pages