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21. Do veterinary professionals qualify for coronavirus testing under the government’s guidelines? (30/03/21)

There are different arrangements on eligibility and access to coronavirus testing in the different countries of the UK. Please see below for details of the system in place in your country.

Please note that, in different countries, specific arrangements apply to prioritise those sectors accessing testing. Again, please check individual national guidance for details.

 

England

NHS Test and Trace have launched a new public health campaign across England to encourage anyone with symptoms to get a free test as soon as they develop symptoms of Coronavirus. The campaign also emphasises the need to respond to the NHS Test and Trace service if contacted.

Read the full UK government guidance including details on how to be tested here

In addition, Defra Secretary of State George Eustice MP has encouraged employers in England to sign up to the government’s workplace coronavirus testing programme. This is a voluntary initiative for employers to sign up and employee participation. To qualify for free lateral flow tests, applications must be registered by 31 March 2021. View further information.

 

Wales

Anyone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus is eligible for a test. However, the process of getting tested is different for members of the public and ‘critical workers’, which include veterinary professionals.

Read the Welsh government guidance including details on how to be tested

 

Scotland

Testing is available for anyone with symptoms to know if they have the virus.

Community testing is available for some areas of Scotland for people with and without symptoms.

Read the Scottish government guidance including details on how to be tested

 

Northern Ireland

Everyone in Northern Ireland with symptoms of coronavirus is now eligible for testing.

Read the NI Public Health Agency Guidance including details on how to be tested

 

When should I or members of my household be tested?

The Department of Health and Social Care advises that you should be tested within the first 3 days of Coronavirus symptoms appearing, as the test is most accurate within this period, and testing is effective up until day 5.

If you are self-isolating because a person you live with has symptoms you can refer them for testing, giving you and your employer more certainty about whether you should be self-isolating or if you can return to work.

 

Can I seek testing in sites closer to home / work if I work in a different nation to my home?

The Department of Health and Social Care has advised that eligible individuals can access a site in another nation to which they are based so long as they meet the eligibility requirements for that test site and without travelling excessive distances to do so.

 

Please refer to FAQ 10 for more information on ‘key worker’ status in relation to school closures as a result of the pandemic.

Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

Last updated: 30 March 2021

Related FAQs

  • You should only undertake testing for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in animals where it is in the interest of the health and welfare of the animal and is in line with APHA guidance. It should not be a screening test.

    You should be mindful of the fact that SARS-CoV-2 appears to be a very rare cause of mild clinical disease; other differentials should be considered, investigated and ruled out as more likely causes of clinical signs before performing testing for SARS-CoV-2.

    The small number of animals worldwide which have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 to date have shown only mild respiratory signs and gastrointestinal distress. In the absence of a specific treatment for the virus, testing for SARS-CoV-2 has not, and should not, result in alteration to case management. You are therefore urged to carefully consider before undertaking any such test and the benefit to the specific animal.

    Where it is intended that clinical research projects are to be undertaken, for instance, utilising blood that is derived from clinical sampling, ie for a diagnostic or treatment purpose, or via non-invasive sampling, eg swabs, these should be the subject of appropriate ethical review. Otherwise, sampling to answer research investigations is regulated by The Home Office under The Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

    Collecting samples from animals must only be undertaken with due consideration to the current social distancing requirements. Further, as confirmed contact with a suspect human case is one of the criteria for considering testing (see APHA guidance) particular caution should be taken when handling the animal due to the risk of it acting as a fomite.

    If, after careful consideration, you feel that testing for SARS-CoV-2 is necessary, you should assess the types of samples that are needed, ie check with the lab before collection to get it right first time and avoid unnecessary handling or repeat sampling of the animal.

    You have a professional obligation to report positive SARS-Cov-2 test results to the competent authority - Office of the UK Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) in England and respective CVOs in the devolved administrations - to support the UK's international reporting obligations to the OIE.

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last reviewed: 25 March 2021

  • The new UK border rules introduced due to coronavirus state that any person returning to the UK from overseas (excluding Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) must provide their journey and contact details, and self-isolate for 10 days after arrival.

    There are exemptions in place for certain categories of workers in the UK. For each of the devolved nations, travel corridor exemptions are in place and are subject to review dependant on the level of risk for certain countries/territories.

    The quarantine exemptions are different for each of the regions of the UK. Please see below for details of the system in place in your area. In addition, please refer to your employer’s protocols for the interpretation of legislation for your specific work and personal situation.

     

    England

    Travel exemptions

    There are exemptions in place for some travellers, including certain veterinary surgeons, where they have travelled to the UK in the course of their work or otherwise to commence or resume work, as follows:

    • Veterinary surgeons involved in the food supply chain, and
    • Official Veterinarians (OVs) working on official controls at the border

    Those veterinary surgeons involved in the food supply chain are exempt under the following guideline, with the food supply being covered under ‘goods’:

    a worker with specialist technical skills, where those specialist technical skills are required for essential or emergency works or services (including commissioning, maintenance, and repairs and safety checks) to ensure the continued production, supply, movement, manufacture, storage or preservation of 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

    Travel exemptions

    There are exemptions in place for certain veterinary professionals as follows:

    • 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

    Travel exemptions

    Please note that for people travelling to Scotland there are some differences from the exemptions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, namely, there are no quarantine exemptions for veterinary professionals:

    • Registered health or care professionals travelling to the UK to provide essential healthcare, including where this is not related to coronavirus - will need to self-isolate for 10 days if you are staying in Scotland;
    • Frequent travellers for work: if you live in the UK but work in another country and travel between the UK and country of work at least once a week; and/or you live outside the UK but work in the UK and travel between your country of residence and the UK at least once a week - will need to self-isolate for 10 days if you are staying in Scotland.


    Please refer to the Scottish government website.

     

    Northern Ireland

    Travel exemptions

    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.

     

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last reviewed: 25 March 2021

  • Government guidance on mandatory face coverings is different for each of the nations within the UK. Please see below for details of the system in place in your country.

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

    England

    From 8 August 2020 it has been a legal requirement to wear face coverings in all indoor settings where you are likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, including veterinary services, zoos, aquariums, visitor farms and storage and distribution facilities. Please follow the latest government guidance on face coverings including exemptions on wearing face coverings.

    Veterinary professionals are required to wear face coverings indoors when not using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) i.e. a surgical mask for consultations.

    Please see the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) guidance on social distancing control measures and risk assessments for businesses for further information.

    Scotland

    In Scotland, it is mandatory to wear face coverings in retail shops, supermarkets, on public transport, aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms and any other tourist, heritage or cultural site.

    In other situations and workplace settings, the Scottish government confirms that employers should continue to follow the workplaces guidance and should endorse and support staff to wear face coverings in all areas of the workplace, including those mandated by law, and to follow best practice in the use of face coverings. 

    Please see the Scottish government guidance.

    Wales

    Face coverings became mandatory for all indoor public places in Wales from 14 September 2020. Please see the Welsh government guidance.

    Northern Ireland

    Since 10 August, the NI government made it mandatory to wear face coverings in certain indoor settings such as shops and shopping centres, in addition to wearing face coverings on public transport. Please see the NI government guidance.

     

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk / 020 7202 0789

    Last reviewed: 25 March 2021

  • In response to the UK Chief Veterinary Officer’s confirmation today [27 July 2020] that on 22 July, a domestic cat was the first animal in the UK to test positive for Covid-19, there is no change to government guidance on the testing of animals for Covid-19. 

    Despite the fact that this is the first confirmed case of coronavirus animal infection in the UK, there is no evidence that the animal was involved in the transmission of the disease to humans nor is there evidence that other domestic animals are able to transmit the virus to humans. The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery.

    Public Health England has issued advice in line with general coronavirus guidance to keep washing hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.

    Pet owners should be directed to the latest government guidance on how to continue to care for their animals during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Please refer to the BVA website for further advice for pet owners with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

    For more information on your professional obligations regarding testing animals for Covid-19 and your reporting requirements, please refer to FAQ 22.

     

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last reviewed: 25 March 2021

  • Government tracing programmes across the UK are different for each of the four nations. Please see below for details of the system in place in your area.

    Each of the four nations have launched separate contact tracing programmes to avoid blanket national lockdown restrictions and to help facilitate local lockdown situations to target the virus. Each programme will ask those who test positive for Covid-19 to provide contact details for the people that they have been in recent contact with and contact tracers will notify each of those persons to self-isolate for 10 days.

    For veterinary professionals, if you are identified as having been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, but at that time you were wearing the minimum required PPE as recommended by Public Health England (gloves, apron, a fluid repellent surgical face mask and eye protection), you would be considered to have had adequate protection against transmission and should not be advised to self-isolate.

    However, given that in most circumstances where veterinary workers are identified as contacts, whilst you may have been wearing a face covering, this may not have been whilst wearing the minimum required PPE, and so you will be advised to self-isolate. If you are advised to self-isolate, and this would cause an impact on the provision of veterinary services, the incident can be discussed with the local Public Health England Health Protection Team who will decide whether a local risk assessment is warranted. Please refer to your employer’s protocols in the first instance.

    NHS Test and Trace QR system

    Whilst veterinary practices are not required to collect information via the QR code scanning system for the NHS Track and Trace programme, practices may consider implementing this system as part of the public health effort to contain the spread of coronavirus. This service is only available in England and Wales. Please see below for further information regarding the programme relevant for each nation:

    England

    See details of tracing programmes in England

    Scotland

    See details of tracing programmes in Scotland

    Wales

    See details of tracing programmes in Wales

    Northern Ireland

    See details of tracing programmes in Northern Ireland

     

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk / 020 7202 0789

    Last reviewed: 25 March 2021

  • Although the UK government’s 'stay at home' message has been lifted, people should continue to work from home where they can and only travel when necessary.

    Veterinary practices may remain open during a period of national or regional restrictions, however, this will depend on whether an individual can go to work, and you are advised to check with your employer. Please refer to FAQ 1 regarding keeping practices open.

    In light of the varying restrictions imposed across each of the four nations at any given time, it is possible that veterinary professionals may face circumstances where they are restricted in being able to physically attend their practice to work, for example, by avoiding unnecessary travel. Given the nature of regional and national restrictions, the extent and application of restrictions will vary depending on the area in question. Please refer to FAQ 2 for further information.

    England

    From 29 March, the ‘stay at home’ rule ends and people should work from home where they can. Shielding ends on 31 March.

    Please see the government’s website for further information.

    Scotland

    From 2 April, the 'stay at home' requirement will be lifted and people will be asked to ‘stay local’, and not to travel outside their local authority except for an essential purpose, which includes travel for work.  

    Please see the Scottish government’s website for further information. 

    Wales

    The stay local restriction was lifted 27 March. You need a reasonable excuse to travel in or out of Wales, which includes travel for work. Please see the Welsh government website for further information.

    Northern Ireland

    The NI government has confirmed that the ‘stay at home’ message is still in place. However, you may leave home to go to work if you cannot reasonably do so from home. Current regulations are due to be reviewed on 15 April.

    Please see the NI government website for further information.

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last updated: 30 March 2021

  • We have published a joint statement with the University of Surrey School of Veterinary Medicine for final-year students at Surrey vet school.

    Contact the Education Team: education@rcvs.org.uk / 020 7202 0791

    Last updated: 5 May 2021

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