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2001: Sun shines on foot-and-mouth crisis

Many of Britain's tourist attractions are hoping the start of the bank holiday weekend and predicted good weather will attract visitors to areas previously closed due to the continuing foot-and-mouth crisis.

On Friday 4 May Agriculture Minister Nick Brown urged local authorities to re-open footpaths in areas where there have been no cases of foot-and-mouth found in cattle.


"Where whole counties haven't had a single case I think they should look very hard at re-opening the footpaths"

Nick Brown, Agriculture Minister

His call came the day after the prime minister declared that the battle against the disease was in the "home straight", clearing the way for an expected general election on 7 June.

Easter saw a huge decline in visitor numbers to some of the countryside's top tourist areas and many businesses face financial ruin if the situation does not improve soon.

As many as 250,000 tourism jobs are still at risk because of the outbreak, according to the English Tourism Council (ETC).

With ministers anxious to see the countryside start returning to normal, Mr Brown said councils should, where possible, consider allowing walkers back on to paths which are currently closed.

"These decisions have to be made on a case-by-case basis, but where whole counties haven't had a single case I think they should look very hard at re-opening the footpaths," he told the BBC.

"We want to keep people away from farms and livestock, but I cannot believe it is necessary to keep all the footpaths closed in a county that hasn't had a single outbreak of the disease."

While Mr Brown insisted the disease was being brought under control, he acknowledged there was still an area of "intense infectivity" in Cumbria and stressed there was no room for complacency.

The ETC has said that without special aid, English tourism overall is likely to lose 5bn this year, 2.5bn next year and 1bn in 2003. It has urged the government to do more to rescue struggling businesses.

In Context
The foot-and-mouth crisis began in February 2001 and resulted in the slaughter of about six million animals.

Altogether, there were 2,030 confirmed cases of the disease in the UK and Northern Ireland.

The cost to farming was put at more than 900m. Tourism and the rural economy is estimated to have suffered losses of 5bn.

Compensation for farmers whose animals were slaughtered to prevent the virus spreading or for welfare reasons topped 1.34bn.

The last confirmed case of foot-and-mouth was in September 2001 but there have been numerous false alarms since then.

The government has been criticised for its handling of the crisis by farmers.

A report by the National Audit Office in June 2002 said warnings of a shortage of vets to deal with such an outbreak went unheeded.


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