Australia Quarantine set for boost to prevent `catastrophe' : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Quarantine set for boost to prevent `catastrophe'

By KERRY TAYLOR CANBERRA Monday 5 March 2001

Australia's quarantine service is expected to be given extra resources to cope with a massive screening operation aimed at preventing overseas travellers bringing foot-and-mouth disease into the country.

As the disease crisis spread in Europe at the weekend, quarantine and customs staff were working overtime at Australia's main airports to run checks on people returning from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Turkey.

With Australian farms untouched by the crisis, a increase in demand for Australian beef from Europe has been reported as meat stocks run low in Britain, where the outbreak began.

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday offered Australia's quarantine service any extra resources it needed to keep the disease out of the country.

"We haven't had foot-and-mouth disease in Australia for 130 years ... our quarantine restrictions are the toughest in the world and they will continue to be," Mr Howard told Channel Seven's Sunrise program yesterday.

He said 900,000 people travelled between Britain and Australia every year. "We have to make sure that there is no earthly possibility of anything getting in because it would be quite catastrophic," he said.

Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said the present surveillance level could not be maintained without more resources.

"The volume of traffic from the United Kingdom is higher than most other countries where foot-and-mouth disease is an issue," he said.

Mr Truss said he would talk to Mr Howard about boosting resources for the quarantine service.

The UK is the only European country to have confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease. Suspected cases have been reported in Ireland, France and Belgium.

Travellers returning from the UK, Ireland and Turkey as well as southern Africa are being subject to "red channel" checks at Australia's airports, where their goods are disinfected if necessary.

Quarantine and customs officers ask the travellers whether they have been in the countryside, on a farm, in an abattoir or handling livestock in the past three months.

Goods such as footwear, clothing and camping gear are inspected and disinfected if found to be contaminated with soil, straw or other material that may carry the virus.

British dairy and meat products that were not banned under precautions against "mad cow" disease have been banned.

Australian Quarantine and Protection Service spokesman David Finlayson said the strict checks were delaying some passengers.

Other countries would be added to the quarantine check list once cases were reported, he said. France and Belgium had not been added because reports indicated that Belgium's suspected cases were not foot and mouth. But he said passengers on flights from Europe were considered to be high risk.

The National Farmers Federation and the Cattle Council yesterday welcomed any offers to increase surveillance to prevent the disease entering Australia.

Cattle Council executive director Justin Toohey said travellers should be aware of the risk foot and mouth poses for Australia.

"It just takes one piece of salami that someone might be carrying ... It is such a transportable disease," he said. "We need awareness programs for incoming passengers to emphasise the problem foot and mouth would be if it came to Australia."

Mr Toohey said the Cattle Council had seen an increase in demand for Australian beef from Europe since the outbreak, but strict European Union quotas meant Australian beef producers could supply only 7000 tonnes a year to Europe.

Countries such as Canada had requested more beef from Australia since the Britain's foot-and-mouth outbreak, which meant increased trade, he said.

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-- Martin Thompson (, March 04, 2001

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