Current advice from the WHO and PHE is that face masks are not necessary for the general public to use. However, in situations where veterinary surgeons and veterinary teams need to undertake work where 2 metres physical distancing is not possible, then use of PPE may be appropriate to consider. Maximal viral shedding of SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19) occurs early in the course of the illness. People may be contagious up to 2.5 days before they develop symptoms or even know that they are infected, and as many as 50% of infections seem to occur from pre-symptomatic individuals. Therefore, where physical distancing cannot be maintained, use of face masks (in addition to wearing gloves / aprons, and hand washing before and after performing the procedure) may be an appropriate precaution to reduce the risk of an asymptomatic shedder infecting a colleague.
There does not currently appear to be a shortage of disposable surgical masks, so these could be used (but this advice may need to change if the supply of surgical masks becomes limited). Alternatively makeshift or cloth masks can be considered - although good quality evidence is lacking, some data suggest that cloth masks may be only marginally (15%) less effective than surgical masks in blocking emission of particles, and fivefold more effective than not wearing masks. Veterinary practices are encouraged to develop their own guidelines and protocols on the use of PPE in different situations.