Recommendations put forward following an independent review of the UK's avian quarantine system were today largely accepted.

An independent review of the UK's avian quarantine system by a team chaired by Nigel Dimmock, emeritus professor of virology at Warwick University last October, put forward 32 recommendations of which 29 have been accepted or accepted in principle.

Two require further consideration and one has been rejected (see point 4 in "Notes to Editors" for further details).

Ben Bradshaw, minister for animal health and welfare, said: "Professor Dimmock's report was thorough and wide-ranging. It provided us with a challenge - we have now reviewed our procedures and we have presented a response which we think is workable and proportionate.

"I'm sure tightening the system where it is required will reassure the public that our quarantine system would be able to work effectively if imports resume."

Professor Dimmock's review considered, among other aspects, the authorisation of premises for holding birds in quarantine and transit, procedures on importation of birds, the operation of quarantine premises including biosecurity measures and relevant domestic and European legislation.

Based on Professor Dimmock's recommendations, Defra will now:

-- Set up closer veterinary supervision and audit of quarantine by the State Veterinary Service (SVS)

-- Create a central SVS IT system of key data linked to quarantine

-- Revise guidance for the structure and equipment of quarantine facilities

-- Introduce management plans for quarantine operators

-- Write a bird welfare code for importers and quarantine operators

-- Enhance laboratory testing of quarantined birds

The government response is available from the Defra website here

-- Following the case of Avian Influenza in a quarantine premises in Essex, the Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett, announced an independent Review (the Dimmock review) of Avian Quarantine procedures for captive birds on 26 October 2005. This review was set up to examine quarantine arrangements and procedures and make recommendations on any changes needed in order to ensure that the quarantine regime is as secure as possible in light of the evolving disease situation. The report was published on 15 December 2005 and made 32 recommendations for changes to the quarantine regime. It can be found here.

-- The review was carried out on a UK wide basis. Although animal health policy is a devolved area, this is a joint Government response from the Government, the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly of Wales.

-- Of the 32 recommendations, 29 were accepted or accepted in principle although where the response is "refer to EU" the European Commission would be responsible for taking any initiative which it considers necessary as part of the normal EU decision making process. Another two require further consideration. However, Defra does not believe requiring owners of pet birds to place their animals in a commercial quarantine centre is the most proportionate response.

-- The Government response proposes instead to revert to the system of 35 days home quarantine with two veterinary inspections, when the current emergency measures for pet birds (which are not intended for sale) are revoked, providing that, as now, there are no other birds held on the premises.

-- There is currently a temporary EU level ban on third country imports of captive birds until the 31 May. A decision will be taken in May by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) as to whether this ban should be extended or lifted (in full or in part).


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