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Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
Brown: Outbreak 'under control'
Forest of Dean sheep being rounded up
Sheep in the Forest of Dean are being rounded up
The Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, has again insisted the foot-and-mouth crisis is under control.

However, the disposal of cattle carcasses in Cumbria has been held up while scientists discuss whether the cattle can be safely buried without posing a possible BSE risk to humans.

The discussions come as Prime Minister Tony Blair puts the general and local elections on hold to focus on combating the outbreak, which had risen to 901 cases on Sunday.

Mr Blair is also expected to decide shortly whether to authorise mass vaccination.

Culled sheep in Cumbria
The Great Orton site has already seen thousands of sheep buried

At a meeting of farmers and Army personnel at a disease control centre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Mr Brown said a 24-hour deadline between reports of cases and slaughter was "crucial" to control the disease.

The government is determined to reduce the time between the reporting of new outbreaks of the disease to the slaughter of livestock to no more than 24 hours.

'Under control'

That would help slow the spread of the disease and could mean vaccination may not prove necessary.

Mr Brown accepted there some way to go to achieve this deadline, but told reporters the outbreak was "most certainly under control".

Crisis in the UK
Total confirmed cases 901- 26 on Sunday
353,000 animals due for slaughter
587,000 animals have been slaughtered
421,000 carcasses destroyed

He told the BBC: "Locally we need to up the game but everybody is working very hard.

"We need to get the time from original reportage to slaughter within that crucial 24 hours."

As part of the efforts to speed up disposal, cattle less than five years old will now be buried instead of burned after culling.

Lorry loads of dead cattle have been arriving at the burial site in Great Orton, Cumbria, but officials say final agreement for burial has not yet been given.

The officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) met scientific advisers on BSE to discuss the possible health implications.

The scientists attached to Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Commitee (SEAC) are finalising their arrangements with ministry officials before any burial can take place.

Free-roaming sheep culled

Meanwhile, the first precautionary cull of free-roaming sheep is taking place in the Forest of Dean, in the Welsh borders.

An estimated 5,000 sheep are being rounded up for slaughter by the army.

A MAFF spokeswoman said: "The operation will take several days yet."

It follows the start of a precautionary cull of 2,500 sheep in South Armagh.

Burning carcasses at Gretna Green
The slaughter has generated thousands of carcasses

Prime Minister Tony Blair is discussing the crisis with advisers at his Chequers retreat.

An official announcement that the local elections planned for 3 May will now be postponed is expected on Monday.

The prime minister was due to call a general election on the same date, but that is expected to be put back to June as well.

As the prime minister channels his efforts into fighting the disease he is said to favour mass vaccination.

Angry protests

But farmers have warned vaccinations would be damaging as the policy would end Britain's disease-free status and could mean 1bn lost in meat export revenues.


This is the crucial intervention for us. We need to get the time from original reportage to slaughter within that crucial 24 hours

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown

National Farmers' Union President Ben Gill has urged that the policy of slaughter and destruction continue as the best means of combating the disease.

But plans to bury animal carcasses at a site in Wales have met with fierce opposition amid concerns about spreading the disease further.

Protesters called off their demonstration at Eppynt army range near Sennybridge in Dyfed on Sunday morning, after a police officer was injured.

A man was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of attempted murder.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Helen Callaghan
"For the first time free roaming sheep are being rounded up as part of the cull"
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown MP
"My priority is to bear down on the disease"
Brigadier Alex Birtwistle in Cumbria
"Whatever we are doing here, we are doing with environmental clearence"


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01 Apr 01 | UK Politics
31 Mar 01 | Business
01 Apr 01 | Other Sports
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