14 January 2002
All Counties Clear
Of Foot And Mouth Disease
The last county to
be affected by foot and mouth will tonight be declared
clear of the disease, lifting a dreadful blight from the country just
of a year after it first struck.
Northumberland - the
only county to still be designated "at risk" - will be
granted "free" status by DEFRA at midnight tonight.
NFU President Ben
Gill said it was excellent news that would help to draw a
line under eleven months of hell. However, it could still be some weeks
before the country is officially recognised as clear of the disease by
rest of the world.
The Government has
to apply to both the European Commission and the
international animal health organisation, the OIE, for official clearance.
Mr Gill said: "The
lifting of the last "at risk" area will remove a long,
dark shadow from the countryside.
"This is the
news that farmers across the UK have been waiting for. We all
hope that this is truly the beginning of the end of this appalling chapter.
"But we must
now go to the European and world authorities as soon as humanly
possible to get our disease-free status back."
For farmers in Northumberland,
today's good news removes the requirement for
blood testing before sheep movements and ends the restriction of not being
able to move animals outside the county.
However, despite all
counties now being declared free, there are still
strict licensing procedures in place for every animal movement in the
country. A relaxation of these restrictions is not expected to come into
effect until February and will include the partial re-opening of livestock
markets and a general instead of individual licensing system.
Mr Gill added: "Now
we have reached this major milestone, it is imperative
that these new arrangements are implemented as quickly as possible. The
current restrictions are having a crippling financial and logistical impact.
"DEFRA must ensure
that the future restrictions are proportionate to the
disease risk that remains and that they are continuously reviewed and
relaxed as and when the circumstances allow."
A fact sheet with
the latest facts and figures on foot and mouth is
available from the NFU press office or at www.nfu.org.uk.