BBC News

Bird flu restrictions to be removed in Northern Ireland

By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

image copyrightPA
image captionThe restrictions will be removed on Wednesday

Bird flu restrictions in Northern Ireland are to be removed.

A ban on poultry shows and gatherings will also be lifted on Wednesday.

The measures were introduced in December 2016 to address the risk posed by the disease to the poultry sector.

It can be transferred from wild birds to commercial flocks through contamination of feed or water.

But the Food Standards Agency said there was little risk to consumers.

image captionSeveral wild birds, including a swan, were found to have died from the disease in Northern Ireland

Several wild birds here were found to have died from the disease.

But there were no cases in farmed birds.

In Britain, 12 cases of H5N8 were confirmed in commercial flocks, leading to a cull of birds.

The authorities in Northern Ireland put in place an avian influenza prevention zone.

It required bird owners to keep their birds indoors or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.

The measures were relaxed in March when flock owners were allowed to let their birds outside again.

That was important for free-range flocks which might otherwise have lost their designation.

The poultry competitions and displays at this year's Balmoral Show were cancelled due to the restrictions.

Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey welcomed the news.

"This has been a testing time for all of us, and I would like to thank all bird keepers in Northern Ireland for their co-operation and vigilance," he said.

Bird flu has been circulating in Europe since October 2016.