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We are experiencing an unprecedented public health emergency, the likes of which none of us have experienced before, and the health and safety of our staff, clients and society must be at the forefront of our decisions.
There has been a lot of discussion recently within our sector of the profession regarding what level of service it is appropriate that we should be continuing to offer, and the issue of key worker status. Following consultation with members of BEVA Council and executive, the following are our recommendations as of today (24th March). The situation is changing rapidly, and we should be aware that further guidance from the government may alter this advice.
BEVA’s view is that we should be doing everything possible to protect human health and follow the recommendations and advice from the UK government, which is based on efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID 19 virus and to protect the NHS. At the same time we need to maintain the provision of 24-hour emergency care.

BEVA feels:
We should concentrate on maintaining a 24-hour emergency service for our equine patients. All non-essential and routine work should be stopped.
We recommend that routine procedures, including pre-purchase examinations, routine dentistry, routine health checks, poor performance / mild lameness examinations, etc. should be stopped immediately.
Telephone / video consultations should be used when feasible.
For cases where physical examinations are absolutely necessary (i.e. for ill and injured patients), then a declaration from the owner / trainer that they are free from COVID 19 symptoms should be obtained beforehand and social distancing (i.e. at least 2 metres between people) should be practised – however we appreciate that this may not always be safe, and vets are urged to use their professional judgement and only break the “2 metres rule” when absolutely necessary for maintaining animal and human welfare.
Routine 6-monthly influenza booster vaccinations be stopped.
Of course, stopping routine influenza vaccinations will have particular implications for competition horses. We are currently in discussion with the various regulatory bodies looking at ways that we can minimise the longer-term impact of temporarily reducing / halting influenza vaccinations. We further recommend that ALL other influenza booster vaccinations be halted for one month (to be reviewed after that time).
For the administration of other equine vaccines, such as tetanus, equine herpesvirus and rotavirus vaccines, we urge veterinary surgeons to make decisions whether or not to vaccinate on a case-by-case or farm-by-farm basis.
The issue of routine stud / reproductive work raises particular questions. On the basis of the government’s advice, and despite the ability to mitigate risks, we are currently struggling to see how this type of service is essential for animal welfare. However, we appreciate that this has far-reaching implications beyond the veterinary profession, and we have sought guidance from government and are in discussion with the breeding industry; we hope to provide further direction soon.
Such actions will obviously have significant financial implications to practices big and small. The government has introduced extraordinary economic measures aimed to help businesses and employees affected by these measures – details and links to government information are available on the BEVA website.
On the issue of key worker status (which is only relevant in relation to school closures), the RCVS advice is that only equine veterinary surgeons who are providing emergency care can be considered key workers. This does not apply to all equine vets or nurses and only in exceptional circumstances should vets or nurses in equine practice apply for key worker status.

Finally, we urge all practices to look at ways that they can support the most vulnerable people in society among their clients. Also, see if there is any way that you can support your local NHS Trust – some hospitals are asking for supplies of surgical masks, gloves etc.

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