Restrictions imposed on poultry keepers in the east of Scotland following the discovery of a dead swan with H5N1 strain of avian flu on 6 April will start to be lifted this Saturday (22 April).

First minister Jack McConnell told the Scottish parliament today (Thursday) that, in the absence of any further cases, the 3km protection zone around the village of Cellardyke, Fife, would be removed.

The 10km surveillance zone, in which nine producers have faced movement restrictions and been forced to house all poultry, will be lifted ten days later on 1 May.

And the 2500sq km “wild bird risk area, in which 175 producers with 3m birds have faced housing restrictions, should also go on that date.

Mr McConnell publicly praised the efforts of vets and civil servants in their swift response to a potential crisis, and congratulated the general public for not panicking.

NFU Scotland vice-president Jim McLaren described the phased lifting of restrictions as “sensible and proportionate”.

“We are pleased that no further cases of avian flu have been found, despite greatly increased monitoring of wild and domestic birds within the surveillance and protection zones.

“However, the need for vigilance and high bio-security continues.”