DEFRA has announced that the national ban on animal movements will be lifted at midnight Thursday (23 August), following a decision by EU vets to allow  exports of live animals, meat and dairy products to resume from Saturday (25 August).

The decisions have come as a complete surprise, but have been welcomed by the whole industry.

“This is fantatsic news,” said NFU president Peter Kendall”. It shows Brussels is happy with what has been done during the FMD outbreak and is clearly satisfied with the work the farming industry has done with DEFRA in ensuring the disease was contained within a small area.”

EU vets were widely expected to give the go ahead for meat and dairy products to be exported from outside the 10km surveillance zone at their meeting on Thursday (23 August). But the decision to allow live exports too was more than anyone hoped for.

It has also prompted a rapid change of policy at DEFRA, which was not expecting to lift movement restrictions until 9 September.

“Alongside this resumption of exports, the GB-wide movement ban on live animals will be lifted from midnight tonight (23 August) outside of the surveillance zone in Surrey,” said a statement.

However, as a precautionary measure the following restrictions will remain in place:

• Animals will need to remain on the premises they moved to for 20 days before being moved again, the only exceptions to this will be movements within the same holding of less than 8km, and movements direct to slaughter.

• Animal markets, shows and gatherings are currently prohibited in England (not Scotland and Wales) except in the case of collection centres for dispatch to slaughter. This prohibition remains in place pending further announcements.

In addition, the two 3km radius protection zones in Surrey will be lifted at noon tomorrow (24 August). As a precaution, a 5km Temporary Pirbright Biosecurity Area will be put in place around the Pirbright site.

The 10km radius surveillance zone will remain in place.

Chief Veterinary Officer, Debby Reynolds said: “The temporary area is a precautionary measure where we will be working with animal keepers and vets to ensure enhanced vigilance is maintained as we await the conclusions of the HSE investigation and the findings of the independent review led by Professor Brian Spratt.”

These are both due next week.

For more on foot and mouth, see our special report