Poultry owners in Melton have been told they can allow their birds to roam free again from Thursday after the government announced it would be lifting restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of Bird Flu.
Recent outbreaks in the UK and mainland Europe prompted the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to order UK flocks to be housed in December because of the risk of the H5N8 virus being circulated.
Then in February, Defra said poultry could be allowed out into netted runs but some owners lost the free range status of the eggs their birds produced.
But the government announced today (Tuesday) that poultry would be allowed to run free again from Thursday, although all owners will still have to comply with strict biosecurity measures, such as cleaning footwear, keeping bird residences clean and feeding birds indoors.
The ban on poultry gatherings remains in place, though which means that Melton Cattle Market can not re-start its popular Tuesday sales. They have been banned since December, reducing football to the market on Tuesdays.
Restrictions in the housing of birds have been lifted because of changes in the wild bird population. The majority of over-wintering migratory birds have now left the UK and resident wild waterfowl are at their lowest levels and entering the breeding season when they become less likely to move long distances to forage for food.
The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, said: “We continually review our disease control measures in light of new scientific evidence and veterinary advice.
“Based on the latest evidence on reduced numbers of migratory and resident aquatic wild birds we believe that kept birds in the areas we previously designated as Higher Risk are now at the same level of risk as the rest of England and may now be let outside.
“However, all keepers must still observe strict disease prevention measures to reduce the risk of contamination from the environment, where the virus can survive for several weeks in bird droppings.”
He added: “This does not mean business as usual - the risk from avian flu has not gone away and a Prevention Zone remains in place, requiring keepers across England to take steps to prevent disease spreading. We continue to keep measures under review and keepers should check GOV.UK for regular updates.”