In August 2021 the BCT sent us a Special Edition Bulletin on Bat Group Activities & COVID-19. This says we “should work through the IUCN BSG risk calculations“, for our area.
According to the IUCN SSC Bat Specialist group ‘s Recommended Strategy to Reduce the Risk of Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Humans to Bats v2 there is a “low but credible risk of human-to-bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and that this risk can be reduced using mitigation strategies”
The IUCN strategy gives a framework to establish the risk level to bats, and this page aims to outline the current level of risk in Somerset and our strategies to minimise that risk.
Events with no close contact with Bats
These events include:
- Bat walks,
- External acoustic and visual Surveys
- Group talks & training events
Current Status (July 2021 onwards) – Green, no restrictions apply. Group events not involving close contact with bats can proceed according to national and local restrictions. In line with government guidance we ask all attendees to events to apply “hands, face, space” and to wear a mask when in enclosed or confined spaces.
Events with close contact with bats
The risk for group events that enable close contact with bats will be measured according to the IUCN SSC Bat Specialist group ‘s Recommended Strategy to Reduce the Risk of Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Humans to Bats v2. This apples to:
- Bat box checks
- Bat trapping or netting
- Internal bat roost visits, with prolonged stay, or coming within 3m of bats.
- Any bat training involving handling live bats
Current Status (Feb 2022 onwards) – Amber, Medium Risk*. This means we can proceed with caution, and use the Amber (and Green) protect strategies below to mitigate risk.
Protect measures to be applied at all future bat contact events – Green, Low risk
- Avoid bat contact when possible: Handling time to be minimized. Whenever handling is not required, personnel should maximize distancing from animals.
- Wear a face covering: The use of face masks is mandatory either when handling bats; in proximity (< 2m) to bats; or in any restricted, closed environments.
- Do not blow on bats: To examine nipples, fur coloration or to break bites, use alternatives such as blunt instruments to part fur, or blower bottles or pouters with a fine nozzle to blow air.
- Practice hand hygiene: Wash and disinfect hands before handling bats, including before touching equipment that will come into contact with the bats, and at the end of work.
- Use nitrile or latex gloves when handling bats or equipment that will come into contact with bats. Change or disinfect gloves regularly
- Avoid touching your face: Avoid touching the face or mask/face covering during work. If this does happen, carefully wash and disinfect hands afterwards (even in the presence of gloves), to prevent contamination of hands (or gloves) and equipment.
- Disinfect equipment: All reusable equipment including nets, containers, bags or calipers that have been in direct contact with bats should be disinfected between uses to promote good field hygiene.
- Covid Status – Any person diagnosed with Covid-19 in last the 14 days, or anyone showing Covid Symptoms, should not attend event.
Additional Protect measures for Amber, Medium Risk
All Green (Low risk) measures are to be applied, in addition the following should be observed.
- Reducing the number of sites and individual bats involved to the minimum needed for valid statistical inference. Ad hoc sampling of bats, capture of bats for teaching purposes etc. is discouraged.
- Limited numbers: Group leader to decide a safe limit for numbers of participants. Pre-booking with leader required.
- Limit people handling bats: A limit of one (or two) licensed member(s), to handle bats during an event for the minimum possible time, to limit possible transmission
- Epidemiological status of participants: Only those fully vaccinated, or those who have had a negative test within the past 2 days, to attend the event.
When at Red, High Risk
All group bat contact events to be cancelled.
We will replace activities involving contact with bats with those that do not, such as acoustic surveys, emergence counts, observational studies, or environmental samples.
All current SBG risk assessments can be found on this page.
*Currently, sections 1 and 2 of the IUCN framework are red, hence this equates to Amber, Medium Risk level