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2. What type of work can I carry out? (12/04/21)

The governments of all four UK nations have produced plans for the easing of lockdown restrictions, each of which is running at a slightly different speed. Please click on the links below for the guidance appropriate for your country.

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

From 12 April 2021

The Government has issued a roadmap providing a step-by-step plan of changes to ease restrictions in England. 

Changes due to take effect no earlier than 12 April open up parts of the indoor economy. Such changes are contingent on four tests being met:

  • Test 1: The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
  • Test 2: Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  • Test 3: Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
  • Test 4:  assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
     

The indicative, ‘no earlier than’ date may therefore be subject to change, so our guidance, which links to these dates, may also be subject to change.

210324_covid recovery guidance

Professional judgement and biosecurity

Subject to this proviso - with effect from 12 April practices will be able to provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement – i.e. no longer just ‘essential services’. However, it must be stressed that 12 April does NOT see any change in social contact rules; government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be found at FAQ 4.

Flowcharts removed

It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

We have therefore removed our previous flowcharts that aimed to assist with veterinary decision-making during lockdown restrictions.

Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative

Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be 

Wales

From 22 March 2021

On 19 March, the Welsh government published guidance for businesses as the country entered into Alert Level 4 and on 22 March, some classes of non-essential retail re-opened. However, the Welsh CVO’s office has confirmed that this has not changed the Welsh Government’s guidance for vets. Unlike previous lockdowns, vets are no longer required to limit their work and services to urgent work, and there is more discretion for vets to manage their workloads safely.

However, government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

210324_covid recovery guidance

Professional judgement and biosecurity

Unlike previous lockdowns, vets are no longer required to limit their work and services to urgent work, and there is more discretion for vets to manage their workloads safely, in accordance with their professional judgement.

However, government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing, use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

Flowcharts removed

It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

We have therefore removed our previous flowcharts that aimed to assist with veterinary decision-making during lockdown restrictions.

Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative

Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be 

Further information is available from the Welsh government website.

Scotland

From 5 April 2021

On 16th March the Scottish Government published a timetable for easing restrictions. Assuming that all goes well, the next significant milestone will be 5 April, when the Scottish Government plan to ease a wider range of current restrictions in level 4 areas, including reopening of non-essential click and collect, and extending the list of retail premises permitted to open.

210324_covid recovery guidance

Professional judgement and biosecurity

From 5 April, the Scottish CVO’s office has confirmed that veterinary practices will be able to provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement – i.e. no longer just ‘essential services’. 

However, it must be stressed that 5 April does NOT see any change in social contact rules; government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

Flowcharts removed

It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

We have therefore removed our previous flowcharts that aimed to assist with veterinary decision-making during lockdown restrictions.

Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative

Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be found at FAQ 4.

Further information is available from the Scottish government website

Northern Ireland

From 12 April 2021

From 12 April, the Northern Ireland Executive has confirmed that the ‘stay at home’ provision will be removed from legislation and from this date, veterinary practices will be able to provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement – i.e. no longer just ‘essential services’. 

210324_covid recovery guidance

Professional judgement and biosecurity

From this date, veterinary practices will be able to provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement, ie no longer just 'essential services'. 

However, it must be stressed that 12 April does NOT see any change in social contact rules; government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

Flowcharts removed

It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

We have therefore removed our previous flowcharts that aimed to assist with veterinary decision-making during lockdown restrictions.

Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative

Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be found at FAQ 4.

Further information is available from the Northern Ireland government website.

 

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

Last updated: 12 April 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

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