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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 04:49 GMT 05:49 UK
Disease restrictions lifted at farms
Sign next to the entrance gate to Ramshaws Farm near Thirsk
The Thirsk "blue box" restrictions have eased
Foot-and-mouth restrictions have eased on almost 7,000 farms in the north of England.

A "blue box" of strict restrictions has been lifted on 1,561 farms around the Thirsk area of North Yorkshire.

And the so-called North England Infected Area restrictions have been lifted at 5,429 farms in Cheshire, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton Bury, Salford, St Helens, Trafford, Warrington and Wigan.

Disease in the UK
Total cases: 2,021
Slaughtered: 3,870,000
Awaiting slaughter: 6,000
Awaiting disposal: 3,000

Those areas have now been reclassified as "at risk", rather than "high risk" - which means farmers will be allowed to move more livestock under the autumn movement restrictions.

There was also good news for farmers in Leicestershire - the results of tests on two suspected cases in the county were declared negative.

Thirsk spot-checks

The "blue box" restrictions were put in place around the Thirsk area six weeks ago, after a cluster of the disease stubbornly refused to go away.

Trading standards and police patrols carried out spot-checks on more than 5,000 vehicles and 8,000 footpaths.

Sheep at a farm in Penrith
The two remaining disease hotspots are Hexham and Penrith

Checks supervised by officials were also carried out on more than 4,500 farm visits by milk tankers and food lorries.

Some people who ignored the rules are being prosecuted.

Officials said that after six weeks, evidence from blood tests suggested there was no significant level of undisclosed disease.

Rural affairs minister Lord Whitty welcomed the lifting of the restrictions, but warned farmers not to let their guard down and to continue practising strict biosecurity measures.

He said he hoped similar restrictions in the two remaining disease hotspots of Hexham, Northumberland and Penrith, Cumbria, would be similarly successful.

But on Monday two roads in Cumbria were closed following two outbreaks on the edge of the Penrith Spur area.

Two minor roads linking the village of Little Asby with the Lune Valley between Tebay and Kirby Stephen will be out of bounds for two weeks.

The area has seen tens of thousands of animals culled over the past three months.

Autumn restrictions

The new autumn restrictions on animal movements come into force on Tuesday.

Under the rules the country is divided into three categories - "high risk", "at risk" and "disease-free" - by county.

Counties considered high risk are subjected to stricter controls than those free of the disease.

Overall, there will be more movement of livestock than before, but under very tight controls.

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