EU extends compulsory bird flu lock-up
24 November 2005
BRUSSELS — A meeting of European Commission experts decided on Wednesday that the compulsory confining of poultry indoors in risk areas to ward off an outbreak of the bird flu virus must remain in force until 31 May 2006.
However, EU member states are free to decide what areas should be classified as “vulnerable”, meaning Belgium will be able to relax its guidelines somewhat.
The Federal Food Agency is planning to draw up an evaluation of risk areas by the end of this month.
It was widely expected that the EC meeting would block any talk of lifting the compulsory lock-up order, but food agency spokesman Pascal Houbaert said the commission had given EU member states “scope” to adjust their own measures.
Houbaert said the food agency will conduct an analysis of the current situation together with the inter-ministerial influenza commission.
Due to the fact the bird autumn migration season has past and no outbreaks of the avian flu virus have been reported on Belgian soil, Houbaert said the agency will probably draw up a less rigid description of risk areas.
He said “adjustments to the ban on gatherings of poultry” are possible, newspaper ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ reported on Thursday.
In theory, it is also possible Belgium will decide that there are no risk areas. However, it is not certain whether measures will be tightened again in February, the start of the spring migratory period.
Belgium ordered poultry indoors almost two months ago in response to recommendations from European Commission experts.
The advice was issued after outbreaks of the H5N1 bird flu strain dangerous to humans spread from South-East Asia to Russia, Turkey and then Romania and Croatia in the second half of this year.
Professional poultry farmers in Belgium were subsequently ordered to keep their birds indoors from the start of October, while hobby farmers were told to do the same at the start of November.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news