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2. What type of work can I carry out? (06/01/21)

Although veterinary practices may remain open, it is vital to continue to comply with current government guidelines on working safely, which vary by nation and region within the UK, and to be mindful of the relevant guidance for members of the public.

Please click on the drop-down below that is relevant to your nation: 

England (national lockdown)

On 5 January 2021, England entered into national lockdown restrictions and the UK government has instructed people to stay at home to control the virus, protect the NHS, and save lives.

Veterinary practices may remain open to provide services essential for public health and animal health and welfare under lockdown restrictions, and are not, as previously, restricted to emergency-only work.

The UK government has said that owners may leave home to seek veterinary advice or treatment for animal health and welfare reasons.

Veterinary professionals should exercise their clinical judgement as to what constitutes essential animal health and welfare, and therefore it may be appropriate in certain circumstances to delay seeing an animal until lockdown restrictions are lifted.

In line with the 'stay at home' message, veterinary practice support staff should work from home if possible, and veterinary professionals should undertake triage calls or remote consultations from home where possible.

Veterinary professionals are reminded to take appropriate biosecurity and hygiene measures when they do need to see an animal in person.

Please refer to the flowchart for England (national lockdown) - also available to download as a PDF.

Further information is available on the government website.

Can I do it? Guidance for clinical practices in England (national lockdown)

Wales

From 00.01hrs on 20 December 2020, Wales entered a national lockdown with Alert Level 4 restrictions to replace the previous national restrictions.

The Welsh CVO’s office has confirmed:

"Veterinary services may continue to operate but non-essential sales of petcare products must cease, in line with suspension of non-essential retail. Services that are not necessary for the health and welfare of animals or for the production of food should be deferred.

"We expect vets to use their professional judgement and understanding of infection control to make sensible decisions to limit the risks of spreading Covid-19 whilst undertaking their work. We do need people to stay at home as much as possible in this Alert Level 4."

Please refer to the updated flowchart for Wales below, which can also be downloaded as a pdf.

Further information is available on the Welsh government website.

Covid-19 practice flowchart for Wales- 20 December 2020

Scotland (Levels 0-3)

From 2 November 2020, the Scottish government introduced a system of five Covid protection levels that can be applied nationally or locally depending on the prevalence of the virus across Scotland, and which will be reviewed regularly.

If your practice is in a region of Scotland under Levels 0-3 restrictions, please refer to the flowchart below.

The flowchart below is also available to download as a PDF.

Covid-19 practice flowchart - Can I do it? Scotland Levels 0-3

Scotland (temporary lockdown)

From 5 January 2021, mainland Scotland moved from Level 4 restrictions to a temporary lockdown, with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes.

The Scottish CVO’s Office has confirmed that:

"Businesses which provide essential services can continue to operate, such as those in the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sector. There are 13 designated CNI sectors including agriculture and food production and activity to maintain the food supply chain.

"Not all CNI activity will be essential. Those operations which can be done effectively through home working should be adopted.

"Veterinary services can remain open. They should plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively.”

Businesses that can continue to operate under lockdown restrictions must:

  • Plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively and maintain their service/operations.
  • Ensure all regulations and guidance is adhered to by staff and customers/visitors to site.
  • Encourage staff to work from home wherever possible, particularly with regards to staff who are assessed as at possible risk.

If your practice is in a region of Scotland under lockdown restrictions, please refer to the flowchart below. The flowchart below is also available to download as a PDF.

Further information is available on the Scottish government website.

Can I do it? Guidance for clinical practices in Scotland (national lockdown)

 

Northern Ireland (lockdown)

From 00.01hrs on 26 December 2020, the Northern Ireland Executive introduced a six-week lockdown to replace the previous national restrictions. An order for people in Northern Ireland to stay at home – to help stop the spread of Covid-19 – will become legally enforceable from 00.01 on Friday 8 January 2021.

The NI Executive has confirmed that veterinary practices can remain open.

When deciding whether or not to carry out a particular type of work, you should refer to the flowchart below and use it to guide you through the decision-making process. The flowchart below is also available to download as a PDF.

Further information is available on the Northern Ireland government website

Can I do it? Guidance for clinical practices in Northern Ireland (national lockdown)

 

Please note:

We have considered and produced the flowchart and associated guidance for the veterinary profession in line with the latest government advice, including:

This flowchart was originally published on 9 April 2020, and was then updated on 19 May, 6 August and 29 September 2020. Further versions (for different scenarios) were then published on 23 and 26 October, 3, 19 and 26 November and 10 December 2020.

Print-ready versions of these flowcharts are also available to download as a PDF document.

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

Last updated: 6 January 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 updated: 27 July 2020 

  • 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 updated: 25 January 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, the Scottish government recommends wearing a face covering where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of your household. 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 updated: 24 September 2020

  • 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 updated: 27 July 2020

  • 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 updated: 14 December 2020

  • 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, 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.

     

    Possible scenarios

    Whilst we cannot account for all eventualities, please see below responses to three possible scenarios:

    Can I do home visits to clients who live in an area under different restrictions to those where I live/work?

    Government advice is to minimise travel and as the restrictions vary between the nations, only travel to and from areas under different restrictions where it essential to do so. You will be able to travel to a client seeking emergency veterinary care where there is no other option, and this should be considered in line with FAQ 2.

     

    Can my clients visit my practice if they live in an area that has different restrictions to where my practice is?

    Clients should only travel to an area under different restrictions where essential, and for emergency treatment where there is no other option. If there is an option to conduct more routine work without the client travelling to the practice, then this should be considered in line with FAQ 2.

     

    Can I work in practice if my practice is located in a different country to where I am living?

    Government guidance is that you must work from home if you can effectively do so and anyone who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. However, clinically extremely vulnerable employees should be encouraged to stay at home.

     

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

    Last updated: 9 November 2020

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