The Prime Minister has confirmed that the government was stepping up efforts to control the foot and mouth outbreak and has said the two affected farmers will receive “increased compensation”.

Speaking to journalists at a Downing Street Mr Brown said 46 premises had been checked for the traces of the foot and mouth virus, with only two returning positive results.

Efforts to contain the outbreak had been “intensive” and were now being “stepped up”, he said.

Referring to an interim report from the Health and Safety Executive released on Tuesday (7 August), Mr Brown added that the chances of the virus being transmitted by air or by surface water from the Pirbright facility, which houses the animal health company Merial and the Institute for Animal Health, were “negligible”.

The investigation would now look at the drainage systems at the Merial plant as well as the possibility of human transmission, with a further report expected on Wednesday (8 August), he added.

Mr Brown thanked the farming community across the UK for their co-operation.

Following the release of the report, DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn confirmed that public footpaths in the area would be closed and that the possibility of contamination through human movement would be investigated “as a matter of urgency”.

“Release by human movement – which the report describes as a real possibility – will now be investigated further as a matter of urgency.  This will involve further interviews with personnel at the site, I have asked for a further report on these investigations as soon as possible.

“We are determined to control and eradicate this disease as soon as possible. I would ask the farming community, as it has done throughout, to maintain vigilance, and report any concerns whatsoever to Animal Health.”

For the latest developments see the FWi Special Report page