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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 22:39 GMT
Wales to be foot-and-mouth free
Graphic of foot-amd-mouth disease in Wales
Wales due to be declared free of foot-and-mouth
The end of Wales's foot-and-mouth nightmare is in sight with Defra officials expected to declare the country free of the disease from midnight on Monday.

It will be the first time the countryside has moved from under the shadow of the mass slaughter and burnings of livestock since the end of February.

Bloods tests of sheep in the last seven areas in mid and south Wales have come back clear.

Testing sheep in the Brecon Beacons
Thousands of sheep have been tested

It brings to a close one of the worst nine-month periods in decades for businesses and people in the countryside.

The first case was declared in Wales on 27 February and reached its peak at the end of March.

The last case was confirmed on 12 August and since then testing has been continuing to make sure the disease does not flare-up again.

Farmers still face restrictions when moving livestock in Wales, but the disease-free status will mean all livestock producers are under the same restrictions.

The disease-free declaration is the next step needed to enable exports of Welsh meat to resume.

The Welsh Assembly's Rural Affairs Minister, Carwyn Jones, said: "These past months have been difficult times."

ewe
The virus cull in Wales had a huge impact on businesses

He said: We can now look forward to returning to a degree of normality within the agriculture industry."

"However, we must remain vigilant.

"We are not totally out of the woods and there remains a need to maintain a licensing system for the movement of susceptible livestock.

"From tomorrow the licensing arrangements will allow livestock to move between all areas of Wales as well as into Scotland and most of England.

"In addition, we are moving towards the resumption of meat exports from across the whole of Wales but that still needs final clearance from the European Commission."

He said the Defra decision justified the tight controls put in place as a result of the outbreak and showed that the no-vaccination policy for Welsh livestock was the right one.

A marksman shoots sheep in an open field
A marksman shoots sheep in an open field

However, a rural business organisation which has its roots in Powys said on Monday it was going to sue the government for compensation because of the losses its members have suffered at the handling of the crisis.

The UK Rural Business Campaign claims the support of hundreds of businesses from all over the country.

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Peter Ainsworth, Shadow environment minister
"The collateral damage done to bring the crisis under control on firms was immense"
See also:

08 Nov 01 | Wales
Rural firms seek virus payouts
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