The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have published guidance for farmers on TB testing during the coronavirus pandemic. This guidance, including an FAQ, can be found on the TB Hub website.
APHA has prepared advice for vets in order to ensure a consistent approach to the prioritisation of TB testing across Britain. There are currently no plans to cancel any statutory requirements for TB testing. APHA is continuing to monitor the situation, and adjustments to TB testing instructions may be made as appropriate. Further details will follow as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.
All government advice in relation to the coronavirus outbreak should be followed including self-isolation requirements if you have symptoms of the disease. If you live with others, and you or one of the household have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14 day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. Social distancing should be maintained, wherever possible, especially if you are in a risk group defined by Public Health Wales.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (high temperature and/or a new, continuous cough), then NHS advice is that you need to self-isolate at home. In this case, you should not present your cattle for TB testing and would need to make alternative arrangements for someone else to present them. If this is not possible, then you must immediately contact your Veterinary Delivery Partner (VDP) who carries out your TB testing. They will discuss rearranging your TB test with you, taking into account veterinary resources available at that time. If the test cannot be rearranged within your testing window, ask your VDP to contact APHA so this can be recorded.
Welsh Government state that protecting public and animal health is a top priority and they will not at this stage cease visits necessary to safeguard animal health and welfare and public health. Visits to farms to investigate suspect cases of notifiable disease and to take samples for the control of diseases such as salmonellosis will continue. Delivery Partners and OVs will still be provided with schedules of TB testing work to be completed. The need for farm visits will continually be reviewed by the Welsh Government and the APHA, as the situation develops.
Welsh Government will continue to prevent the movement of cattle from herds which become overdue with their surveillance TB testing. This is because such herds will still be considered as “of unknown TB status”. Pre-movement and post-movement testing requirements will remain, in order to limit the risk from the movement of cattle of unknown TB status around Wales. Welsh Government are advising keepers in the Low TB Area of Wales not to purchase cattle from higher risk TB areas, if a satisfactory post-movement test may be challenging to complete. All herd keepers should therefore ensure that any cattle they purchase have had the required pre-movement testing.
If completion of a TB test is not possible during the defined testing window then the farm in question will be placed under restriction (and the OTF status of the herd suspended).
The overdue test process already has a built-in check to see if there are any exceptional circumstances that prevented the test being completed on time. If APHA agrees that all reasonable endeavours have been made to complete the test within the window and that there are genuine mitigating circumstances as a result of the impact of coronavirus then APHA may use its discretion to not enact cross compliance with relevant the paying agency and not apply reduction to compensation because reactors have been tested outside of the normal test window.
Farmers that are in a risk group identified by Public Health Wales, and are due for a visit, should contact the APHA or their private vet, who can evaluate the need for attendance.
The advice provided may be subject to change as this disease progresses and we will continue to update our members when new information becomes available.