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The BBC's Jon Sopel, in St Etienne
"These are worrying times for the French government"
 real 28k

Monday, 5 March, 2001, 07:05 GMT
French foot-and-mouth fears grow
Farm near Poitiers
Farms across France have been sealed off
French officials say foot-and-mouth antibodies have now been found on nine farms across the country, as fears grow of an outbreak in mainland Europe.

The disclosure came as Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany told French radio that sheep imported from Britain had been suspected of being infected before they were slaughtered.

The suspicions about foot-and-mouth disease could not be confirmed because the animals were slaughtered and burned after the tests were taken

Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany
But he stressed that the disease had not been confirmed, and the French move did not mean there had been an outbreak there.

Over the weekend farms in Belgium, France and Denmark were quarantined after suspected cases of foot-and-mouth were discovered. Further tests are being carried out.

Foot-and-mouth has brought havoc to the British farming industry with about 70 cases confirmed since the outbreak began just under two weeks ago.

Last week, France announced that it was destroying 50,000 sheep imported from Britain as a precautionary measure.

The BBC's Jon Sopel in St Etienne says that now these animals have been slaughtered, there is no way of knowing whether they would have gone on to develop the highly infectious disease fully.

He says that French officials will not disclose how many individual cases they have discovered.

Danish scare

In Denmark, several farms were placed under quarantine as a precautionary measure on Sunday.

The Danish Food Administration also toughened hygiene regulations, temporarily banning all private food imports and limiting visits to cattle farms.

Euro reaction
EU: no bans
France: ban on British and Irish products
Germany: culling British animals
Belgium: started cull
Spain: destroyed British pigs, disinfecting vehicles, seizing and destroying meat products
Portugal: disinfecting British visitors
Cyprus: disinfecting British visitors
Russia: banned all British meat products
But the UK remains the only country in western Europe to have confirmed cases of the infection.

More than 53,000 animals have been slaughtered and incinerated in the UK, and government vets are trying to trace thousands more they think may have been infected.

Ireland, meanwhile, has deployed troops along the border with Northern Ireland, where one case has been confirmed, in an attempt to prevent the spread of the outbreak.

The European Union has said there is no need to proceed to a mass vaccination programme.

European measures

Fire at Meigh, Northern Ireland
Animals are being burnt all over the United Kingdom
Countries around Europe have, however, been implementing more and more emergency measures.

Germany has ordered the immediate destruction of all sheep and goats imported from the UK in the last four weeks.

Spain has banned all livestock fairs and incinerated hundreds of British pigs.

It has also issued guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting of vehicles and the confiscation and destruction of food and waste from the UK.

Russia has imposed a blanket ban on all meat products from Britain.

The Austrian Government has advised its nationals to avoid travelling to Britain "unless absolutely necessary".

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See also:

01 Mar 01 | Europe
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01 Mar 01 | Europe
Ireland battens down the hatches
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Australia's livestock fear
28 Feb 01 | Europe
Germany's green revolution
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