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Written Statement - Avian Influenza Prevention Zone

Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs

On 6 December 2016, I declared the whole of Wales an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone. I did this in response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 outbreaks across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. This was a precautionary measure to minimise the risk of poultry and other captive birds being infected by wild birds. The declaration was made under Article 6 of the Avian Influenza and Influenza of Avian Origin in Mammals (Wales) (No. 2) Order 2006.

The Prevention Zone requires all keepers of poultry and other captive birds to keep their birds indoors or take all appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds and to enhance biosecurity on their premises. Similar measures were introduced in England and Scotland, ensuring a co-ordinated approach across Great Britain. Northern Ireland declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone on 23 December 2016.

Following confirmation of HPAI on a commercial turkey farm in Lincolnshire on 16 December 2017, a temporary suspension on gatherings of poultry in Wales, England and Scotland was introduced. That suspension remains in place.

The first, and to date only, case of HPAI in domestic birds in Wales, was confirmed on 3 January 2017 in a small back yard flock of chickens and ducks on a premises near Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire. The premises were immediately put under restriction and the birds were subsequently humanely culled. A 3 km Protection Zone (PZ) and 10 km Surveillance Zone (SZ) was put in place around the premises to prevent the spread of disease.

On 4 January I extended the period of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone to end on 28 February. I did this in response to the Carmarthenshire and Lincolnshire cases in poultry and following findings of HPAI in dead wild birds across Great Britain throughout December 2016, including a wild duck in Carmarthenshire. England and Scotland also extended their Avian Influenza Prevention Zones to end on 28 February.

Completion of the required disease control measures enabled the PZ in Carmarthenshire to be merged with the SZ on 26 January, which was removed on 4 February. Since the Carmarthenshire case there have been 6 further cases in Great Britain, all in England (a total of 8 cases to date), and further findings of HPAI in dead wild birds, including in Wales.  Further cases are likely.

The current level of risk of HPAI to poultry and other captive birds from wild birds is unlikely to change before the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone is scheduled to end on 28 February. In view of the ongoing risk, and following consultation with industry representatives and expert advice, I have taken the decision to further extend the period of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone until 30 April 2017. The new declaration will apply from 00:01 on 28 February 2017 and there are some important changes to the measures that will apply within the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone.

All keepers of poultry and other captive birds will be legally required to complete a biosecurity self assessment of their premises, using a form provided by the Welsh Government. Keepers can select one or more from three options; continue to keep their birds housed, keep them totally separate from wild birds or allow their birds to have controlled access to outside areas, subject to the introduction of additional risk mitigation measures.

It will be the responsibility of the keeper to determine the option(s) most applicable to their circumstances to protect their birds. The completed self assessment forms must be retained and produced to relevant inspection or enforcement officers upon request.

I consider the whole of Wales to be at risk, which is why the measures I will be introducing on 28 February will apply to the whole country. My decision to put in place a further Avian Influenza Prevention Zone and the actions and control measures put in place to date continue to be proportionate. Activities of highest risk have been targeted to minimise impact on international trade, the economy and the sustainability of the free-range poultry industry within Wales.

I remind all keepers of poultry and other captive birds of the need to comply with the existing Avian Influenza Prevention Zone and required measures. I am making everyone aware of my intentions now so that keepers have the time to complete the required self assessment and prepare themselves for the new measures which will be in place from the 28 February.

Keepers of poultry and other captive birds must remain vigilant for signs of disease. Avian influenza is a notifiable disease and any suspicion should be reported immediately to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Even when birds are housed, there remains a risk of infection and keepers should practice the highest levels of biosecurity.

I continue to strongly encourage all poultry keepers, even those with fewer than 50 birds, to provide their details to the Poultry Register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately, via email or text update, in an avian disease outbreak, enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.

Information on the requirements of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, guidance and latest developements are all available on the Welsh Government website:

http://gov.wales/topics/environmentcountryside/ahw/disease/avianflu/?lang=en