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Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) – updates for the veterinary profession

02 Apr 2020 | COVID-19

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Please visit our Covid-19 information hub for the latest news and resources

Last updated: Thursday 2 April 2020

News surrounding the global pandemic of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is changing rapidly. Current government advice is:

  • If you have coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature or a new continuous cough), you should stay at home for 7 days. Only call NHS 111 if your condition gets worse or does not improve after 7 days. If members of your household have coronavirus signs, you should stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.
  • Stay at home. Following the Prime Minister’s address on Monday 23 March everyone must stay at home. You may only leave home for the following reasons:
    • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
    • One form of exercise a day
    • Any medical need, to provide care of help a vulnerable person
    • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary

Pending further detailed advice, BVA and the RCVS are interpreting this information to include people seeking urgent emergency veterinary care for their animals.

Given the rapidly changing situation, please ensure you regularly check the latest NHS advice and the GOV.UK coronavirus webpage. BVA is in regular contact with the World Veterinary Association, FVE, Defra and the devolved administrations to keep up to date on developments.

Advice for vets and veterinary practices/businesses

Following the Prime Minister’s address on Monday 23 March, all veterinary practices must reduce face-to-face contact immediately. This means:

  • switching to providing emergency care only (in person);
  • fulfilment of urgent prescriptions; and
  • maintaining the food supply chain

Vets and members of the veterinary team deemed essential to deliver this emergency care can travel to and from work. Other members of the team should work from home if possible (for example handling calls and triaging cases) or not work (see section on finance).  

When carrying out essential work vets and veterinary teams must practise social distancing (see below).

We’ve developed a guide for vets in clinical practice to help you consider whether cases are urgent, emergency, or routine. Please note that this advice is intended as guidance only. It is not an exhaustive list and veterinary practices may vary in their approach due to individual circumstances. This advice is for restrictions remaining in place for 3 weeks from Monday 23 March and will be reviewed in light of any further government instructions or relevant information. 

FAQs: Take a look at our frequently asked questions on Covid-19 for advice on the workplace, government support, medicines, students, and how you can support the NHS. 

Regulation: The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has issued advice as well as a resource of FAQs.

Medicines: NOAH have advised that veterinary practices should continue with normal ordering patterns to ensure supplies. 

Employment: Public Health England has issued guidance for employers, employees and businesses in conjunction with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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.

Downloadable resources

We’ve created a few generic downloadable resources to help veterinary teams. Download our letter to use when travelling to and from work in case you need to explain why you are out and about. And use our editable template poster for practice front doors to make sure your clients are practising social distancing.

Webinar - Covid-19 and the veterinary profession

We’re running 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 provide an opportunity for you ask your questions direct to our President, Daniella Dos Santos.

Sunday 29 March: Covid-19 and the veterinary profession – an update

Sunday 22 March: Covid-19 and the veterinary profession. Please note that some guidance may have changed since the webinar was broadcast on Sunday 22 March.

The next webinar will take place Sunday 5 April 12-1pm. You must register to attend on The Webinar Vet website

Social distancing

Full guidance on staying at home and away from others is available on the GOV.UK website.

Further advice and guidance for animal owners and vets will follow.

Key workers

Following the government advice on ‘key workers’, we’ve issued joint guidance with RCVS, which aims to help you decide whether or not you can claim ‘key worker’ status and ask for your children to continue to be taken into schools. We encourage you to carefully consider the wider societal picture and ensure that you only claim ‘key worker’ status if absolutely necessary.

Financial assistance

This period is likely to be financially difficult for many businesses and individuals. The Government has announced a series of financial support measures  and we’ve written to the UK government and the devolved administrations to urge them to recognise veterinary surgeons and veterinary businesses as ‘business critical’ in the coming weeks and months, as well as extend financial packages, such as business rates relief. We’ve also added our voice to the call for additional support for self-employed workers.

Write to your MP

We would urge you to write to your local MP - and MSP, AM or MLA where appropriate - asking for their help in securing access to financial support packages for your business, and flexibility over furloughing, using the template letter.

Coronavirus and animals

According to the OIE, the current spread of Covid-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission, and, to date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare. Current evidence suggests Covid-19 has an animal source but this remains under investigation. Vets should continue to take the usual precautions when handling animals and animal products in line with good biosecurity protocols.

On 1 March it was reported that a Pomeranian dog in Hong Kong had tested positive for Covid-19 and further testing, including gene sequencing, suggested that the dog had a low-level of infection and that this is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission. The dog did not show any clinical signs of disease and following repeated testing and negative results, was released from quarantine. The OIE states that “There is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick.”  A second dog in Hong Kong also tested positive and, again, showed no clinical signs.

On 27 March it was reported that a cat in Belgium, whose owner has Covid-19, had tested positive for coronavirus and showed mild clinical signs. The infection appears to be an isolated case and the animal’s health is understood to be improving.

Full WSAVA guidance on coronavirus is available on the website.

Defra has produced advice for people with animals. Our advice for pet owners diagnosed with Covid-19 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 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 practice 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 play a role in the spread of the disease.
  • If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice.
  • If your pet requires emergency 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.

Key links

Divisional resources and guidance

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