The Scottish Executive has extended its avian flu surveillance zone in response to confirmation of the H5N1 strain being found in a dead swan.

The chief vets of Scotland and the UK have said, at the moment, they think a GB-wide housing order would be a ‘disproportionate’ response.

But Scotland’s chief vet Charles Milne told a press conference in Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon (6 April) that a 250 sq km ‘wild bird risk area’ would be established in the Montrose Basin area, in addition to an existing 10km surveillance zone.

The new zone will cover 3.1 m birds, including 260,000 free-range birds, on at least 175 registered premises.

Farmers will be ordered where possible to house their birds. If that is not possible, then they will have to take steps to keep them separate from wild birds.

NFU Scotland deputy chief executive James Withers said: “This is a serious issue for Scotland’s poultry producers, but it remains an issue for the farming industry, not for the public or consumers.

“Farmers are relying on expert advice and if it says we need these restrictions, then that is what must be imposed. The price of being too lax with this disease is too high to contemplate.”

Mr Withers said the wider restrictions will undoubtedly cause problems for farm businesses and the NFUS would be working with the Executive on an hourly basis to try and address these.

“However, whilst these new restrictions effectively shut down a significant proportion of the industry and look draconian, a sense of perspective remains important. We are still talking about one wild bird, in one isolated case.”

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