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Brussels, 26 March 2003

Avian influenza in the Netherlands: Some restrictions lifted

The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health voted in favour of a European Commission proposal to lift some of the restrictions put in place after outbreaks of avian influenza in the Netherlands. Under strict conditions day-old chicks can now be exported and the measures in the surveillance zone have been slightly modified.

Outbreaks of avian influenza in the province of Gelderland have been confirmed since 28 February. To date, the number of infected holdings is 96 and another 43 are seriously suspected to be contaminated. In total, 254 holdings, with approximately 5 million birds, have been culled since the start of the epidemic. The outbreaks are thus concentrated in the "Gelderse Vallei" in the province of Gelderland.

Since the start of the epidemic, protective measures have been put in place. No live poultry and hatching eggs may be dispatched from the Netherlands to other Member States or third countries. They may also not be transported within the Netherlands. However, since 4 March movements of day-old chicks and poultry for immediate slaughter within the Netherlands are authorised and since 21 March spent laying hens, pullets and hatching eggs may be transported within the Netherlands in areas outside the surveillance zone.

At the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health Member States agreed to a Commission proposal to further ease some of the restrictions. As from 28 March, day-old chicks hatched outside the surveillance zone and at least 25km from any suspected or infected holding can be exported to other Member States or third countries. Live poultry and hatching eggs from holdings in the surveillance zone can be transported to a slaughterhouse or a hatchery within the same zone. Furthermore, to avoid further spread of the disease outside the "Gelderse Vallei" area, a buffer zone will be created at the north and south border of this area. To this end, the Netherlands shall preventively empty about 30 poultry holdings situated in those two zones.

The measures, applicable until 10 April, will be reviewed at the next meeting of the Committee, scheduled for 8 and 9 April 2003. The Commission, in close cooperation with the Dutch authorities, will continue to follow the disease situation in the Netherlands.

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