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The BBC's Robert Pigott
"Foot-and-mouth cases are continuing to increase just when it was hoped they would peter out"
 real 56k

Farmer's wife Sharron Strawbridge
"Farmers needed information immediately"
 real 28k

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
"We knew that the disease was likely to follow the trade and that is what we're finding"
 real 28k

The BBC's Valerie Jones
"Its one of the most prestigious events in the sporting world"
 real 28k

Friday, 9 March, 2001, 22:26 GMT
Surge in foot-and-mouth cases

It has been the worst day yet for outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, with a raft of new cases crushing hopes of an easing in livestock restrictions.

Twenty new cases were identified on Friday, bringing the total number across the UK to 127.

Officials also revealed the disease had reached two new counties - Somerset and Cheshire.

We are still caught up in a serious disease problem, which may well get worse before it gets better

Chief Veterinary Officer
Jim Scudamore

It had been hoped that new cases would start to tail off a fortnight after movement restrictions were imposed, as foot-and-mouth normally incubates in livestock for a maximum of 14 days.

However, the current total number of cases is substantially less than the 185 cases after the same length of time during the 1967 crisis.

The Badminton Horse Trials, due to take place in May, became the latest event to be cancelled due to fears about the disease.

The disease is also affecting producers of Wensleydale cheese in the Yorkshire Dales - they say they cannot get enough milk for their needs.

The slaughtering of infected and "dangerous contact" livestock has been continuing as the total number of animals which had either been or were due to be slaughtered topped 100,000 for the first time.

Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore said earlier that tight restrictions on livestock movements and other activities that risked spreading the disease were absolutely essential.

Ewe and lamb
Sheep farmers concerned as lambing season gets underway

"To relax the controls too early could lead to a further deterioration in the situation," he said.

Mr Scudamore was speaking after a regular weekly meeting with farmers' leaders and members of the meat and livestock industry.

He said there had been signs that some people felt that the problem was over and that the tight controls were no longer required.

"This could have caused some complacency in observing the rules," he said.

Fresh cases

But junior agricultural minister Baroness Hayman has announced new plans to hand out special licences to farmers who needed to transport livestock short distances.

In particular, they will allow farmers to bring in pregnant ewes from fields to birthing quarters, and move cattle which need to be milked.

Farmers on Dartmoor have suggested that the government has lost control of the disease's spread, and they say thousands of animals are being slaughtered needlessly.

The new foot-and mouth outbreaks included three in Scotland, bringing the country's total to 16.

There are now seven confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth in Wales including four on Anglesey in north Wales, according to the Welsh Assembly.

Despite the outbreaks, Welsh Assembly Rural Affairs minister Carwyn Jones announced that he would be re-examining rules on entering certain parts of the countryside on 16 March.

By Friday evening, 713 farms were subject to movement restrictions on animals while 141 were under investigation by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff).

Royal visit cancelled

While the Badminton Horse Trials is the latest sporting casualty of the crisis, some horse racing fixtures have resumed.

But the Queen Mother's expected visit to Sandown Park in Surrey was cancelled on Friday as part of the course was waterlogged.

Officials at Cheltenham Festival are expected to announce a decision on rescheduling a date for the prestigious horse racing event by Monday.

The GMB union warned that more than 52,000 jobs in abattoirs and meat processing centres are at risk because of the continuing crisis.

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See also:

09 Mar 01 | Other Sports
Crisis thwarts Badminton Horse Trials
07 Mar 01 | Europe
Hope as disease tests negative
08 Mar 01 | Other Sports
Grand National 'safe' as racing recovers
08 Mar 01 | Other Sports
Queen Mum's foot-and-mouth wash
08 Mar 01 | Other Sports
Cheltenham Festival Q&A
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