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Written Statement - Lifting of Temporary Suspension of Bird Gatherings

Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Further to my statement on 26 April, the temporary suspension of gatherings of certain bird species in Wales will be lifted from 15 May.

The lifting of the temporary suspension is dependent on no further outbreaks of highly-pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 in poultry or other captive birds or findings in wild birds.

I have taken this decision based on the latest evidence, which is in turn based on a qualitative risk assessment, which considered the risk of incursion of H5N8 into poultry farms from contact primarily with resident wild waterfowl but also with other possible pathways.  

The updated assessment concluded the overall risk should now be assessed as being low – this is defined as being rare, but may occur occasionally. The overall risk is determined by the likelihood of the virus remaining in wild birds and the environment and the exposure to poultry.

Expert opinion is that the risk to poultry is reduced as migratory wild birds leave Great Britain and as the resident wild waterfowl enters its breeding season. Environmental contamination will also reduce with warmer, drier weather and higher UV levels. Therefore, the risk of exposure to poultry is low as the resident wild waterfowl enter the breeding season they become less gregarious and the possibility of environmental contamination reduces.      

The overall risk presented by gatherings is also reduced, provided there are high levels of biosecurity at the gathering, ensuring species do not mix and cleansing and disinfection is carried out.  

Provided there are no further outbreaks or findings, the current general licence will be revoked and replaced on 15 May by a new general licence allowing all gatherings of birds.

It is vital all poultry and other captive bird keepers remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain excellent biosecurity practices.