Government bodies to be put through paces with foot-and-mouth simulation exercise

A foot-and-mouth warning sign outside a farm during a previous outbreak of the disease. Government d

A foot-and-mouth warning sign outside a farm during a previous outbreak of the disease. Government departments are set to run an exercise testing their responses to a theoretical outbreak over the next few months. Picture: JAMIE NIBLOCK. - Credit: JAMIE NIBLOCK

Government departments are set to carry out simulation exercises to test contingency plans for dealing with any future outbreak of foot-and-mouse disease.

Exercise Blackthorn involved the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland are set to test their current state of readiness over the next few months.

The first simulation exercise is Thursday, February 8, with a further table-top exercise on March 8 followed by a real-time exercise on April 25 and 26 April. Exercise Blackthorn will end on June 7 with a final table-top exercise. UK chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said regular testing of contingency plans was an important part of making sure the authorities can respond to outbreaks.

“Exercises like this provide an opportunity for teams across government and industry to engage and to learn lessons in a controlled and safe environment,” he said.

“The risk of foot-and-mouth disease arriving in the UK is low but ever present. Government monitors disease outbreaks and incidence around the world assessing risk for the UK and taking action to mitigate risk where possible.”

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An exercise evaluation report will be published in the autumn.

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