Chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds has set out the timetable for returning Great Britain to foot and mouth free status.

Stressing that these were all “earliest possible dates, not firm dates”, she indicated that this Friday (24 August) could see the merging of the 3km protection zone (PZ) with the 10km surveillance zone (SZ).

This date marked 15 days since the completion of cleansing and disinfecting the last infected premises (IP) and was dependent on there being no sign of foot and mouth on all holdings in the PZ.

Fifteen days after this – Saturday, 8 September at the earliest – the SZ could be lifted, dependent on blood testing of sheep and clinical inspection of cattle and pigs showing no sign of foot and mouth.

Dr Reynolds said that this date also marked the first date at which live exports to other EU countries could resume.

But trade in certain meat products from some area of GB could resume sooner, depending on the outcome of a meeting of EU vets in Brussels on Thursday (23 August).

“Such a regionlised approach will be part of our negotiating position,” she said.

Dr Reynolds indicated that it would be a while longer before exports to Third country markets could resume, however.

“Ultimately the OIE (International Office of Epizootics) sets the foot and mouth status of any country, including this one,” she said. “Generally that is three months after the final case of the disease.”

As such, full foot and mouth free status would not be granted until early November at the earliest.

At a press briefing in London, Dr Reynolds also suggested that there would be more information on the source of the outbreak next week.

Two reports are awaited – one from the Health and Safety Executive into the integirty of the drainage system at Pirbright and an independent review of biosecurity arrangements by Prof Spratt of Imperial College, London.

* For more on FMD see our special report