Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
On 11 November, I announced an All Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) to be implemented in response to the increasing risk of avian influenza to our poultry industry in Wales. I made a commitment to keep this under review. As we are all aware, disease situations develop and change frequently, and it is essential we monitor the situation and ensure our disease response continues to be appropriate.
The Prevention Zone introduced enhanced biosecurity measures, which were to be implemented and observed, by all keepers of poultry and other captive birds across Wales. I am grateful to Industry for their continued efforts in meeting these requirements, as we all have a responsibility in preventing this disease.
Since, introducing the Prevention Zone, as expected, we have seen an increase in both the confirmed cases of avian influenza in poultry units in England and we have now confirmed H5N8 strain of high pathogenic Avian Influenza in 134 wild birds at 26 different locations in 17 different counties from Cornwall to Kent to Northumberland. On 1 December the first wild bird findings have been also confirmed at two separate locations in Wales.
In light of the evidence from the continent and emerging findings in poultry and wild bird populations, the risk of incursion of highly pathogenic avian influenza has been increased by all four Chief Veterinary Officers across the UK, to very high for wild birds and risk of exposure of poultry across the whole GB to be medium (where stringent biosecurity is applied) to high (where there are biosecurity breaches).
Again, I cannot stress enough the critical role effective biosecurity measures play in helping to reduce the risk.
Whilst these findings demonstrate the Prevention Zone is having an effect in raising awareness of avian influenza, and encouraging people to report both suspicions in their stock and the finding of dead birds, I have to consider as to whether the response continues to be proportionate to the increasing risk.
Therefore, after careful consideration of all factors and as a further precautionary measure in response to the increased risk level, I am proposing to declare a housing order as an extension to the all Wales Avian Prevention Zone, under Article 6 of the Avian Influenza and Influenza of Avian Origin in Mammals (Wales) (No. 2) Order 2006. The additional housing requirement will apply from 00:00 on 14 December 2020. This is in line with other Government administrations across Great Britain.
In addition to the biosecurity requirements of the current Prevention Zone, all keepers will be required to house their birds. Housing in itself however will not reduce the risk of disease, if it is not combined with the most stringent biosecurity practices. As such, all keepers are advised to conduct a self-assessment of their biosecurity measures. This will provide keepers with the evidence they need to ensure they have done all they can to meet the Prevention Zone requirements.
This biosecurity assessment will assist you in preparing for 14 December, so I urge all keepers to start this assessment at their earliest available opportunity. It is encouraged for keepers to involve their veterinary surgeon in this process. There is time between now and the 14 December for keepers to prepare – consider your housing facilities. Do you need any or additional housing structures; are existing structures of a suitable standard and fit-for purpose? All keepers are encouraged to undertake these checks and ensure they and their birds are ready for mandatory housing.
For those keepers of bird species for which housing would be completely impractical or at a severe detriment to their welfare, controlled access to outside areas may be a more suitable alternative. This however is dependent on additional measures being rigorously undertaken, including, but not limited to netting and fencing off ponds, completely netted range areas, and additional measures to deter wild birds. This again brings me back to the importance of establishing robust biosecurity measures.
We continue to respond proactively to this disease, and in this next step, we all continue to have a responsibility in disease control. I continue to urge keepers to take all steps they can. Biosecurity controls are essential, not only in our response to Avian Influenza, but to prevent all disease threats to our livestock. I advise you to undertake the biosecurity assessment, rectify gaps you find, and take all further steps possible. Monitor your birds, and report any concern or suspicion of disease immediately. Register on the GB Poultry Register, regardless of the number of birds you keep. In essence, take all steps to protect your birds and our National Flock!
Information on the requirements of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, guidance and latest developments will be available on the Welsh Government website.