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Avian Influenza Updates

Earlier this morning I was informed that the meeting scheduled for this afternoon had been cancelled. I am sure this will be a great disappointment to you all, as it is to me. However, a Defra representative has taken the time to speak to me, and as a result I am able to provide the following update:

Defra has commissioned a risk assessment (currently not completed) that will be used to decide when to reinstate the General Licence. The option to do this on a staged approach starting with species considered a lower risk (such as racing pigeons) is still an option being considered. The General Licence will not be reinstated prior to 30th April. This means that racing cannot take place before this date and will be permitted at the earliest, from 1st May 2021.

The meeting has now been rearranged for some time in the week commencing 19th April 2021 (time and date to be confirmed); I will keep you updated with any developments.

In the meantime multi-loft training (more than one loft) also remains banned.

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Update 06/04/21: Now that the housing measures component of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been revoked, there is no limitation on the time that pigeons can be exercised.

However, you should continue to ensure that contact with wild birds – either directly or indirectly – is avoided wherever possible (as avian influenza may still be present in the environment).

Gatherings of different lofts remain banned until the General Licence for Bird Gatherings is reinstated by Defra. This includes multi-loft training, racing, shows etc.

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Update 1st April 2021

Following receipt of yesterday’s communication from DEFRA (see below) I followed up my previous emails requesting a meeting to allow gatherings for racing purposes under the provisions of the General Licence. 

Today I received a reply inviting me to a meeting on 9th April at 2pm. Hopefully, this meeting will prove positive from the perspective of pigeon racing, but of course there are no guarantees.

I will provide an update as soon as possible upon completion of the meeting. 

Ian Evans
RPRA CEO

Dear Stakeholder,

Avian Influenza Risk Levels 

Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ)

  • The Avian Influenza Prevention Zones (AIPZs) requiring enhanced biosecurity remain in force across GB until further notice, however AIPZ housing restrictions end at 11:59pm 31 March 2021.
  • All bird keepers should consult the new AIPZ declarations for their administration to ensure they comply with the measures set out in the declaration, including the new legal requirement to keep free ranging birds within fenced areas, and that ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water must be fenced off to minimise any direct or indirect contact with wild birds. Copies of the declarations are available at:
  • England: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu
  • Scotland: www.gov.scot/avianinfluenza
  • Wales: https://gov.wales/all-wales-avian-influenza-bird-flu-prevention-zone
  • Housing remains mandatory for all poultry and captive birds which are located in the 3km Protection Zone surrounding an infected premises. Bird keepers can check where disease control zones are currently located and if they are in a zone using the Defra and APHA interactive map
  • The new cases of avian influenza emphasise that high standards of biosecurity remain essential as infection may still be present in the environment
  • To help ensure bird keepers meet the requirements set out in the AIPZ declarations and protect their birds from this highly infectious virus, we have provided biosecurity guidance and published a biosecurity self-assessment checklist.
  • If bird keepers intend to allow their birds outside after 31 March they must take action before they release birds to prepare the outside areas. Read our guidance on how to prepare for safe release of your birds.
  • In particular it is critical that bird keepers prevent contact either directly or indirectly between their birds and wild birds including:
  • when birds are released they must be in a fenced area;
  • where necessary ponds and watercourses must be fenced off to minimise contact with wild birds;
  • taking action to protect bedding, feed and water sources at all times from contact with both wild birds and bird faeces.

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Update 31/03/21: The latest statement from DEFRA in relation to Avian Influenza is included below, along with the relevant extract from the AI Code of Practice.

Please note that multi loft training remains banned throughout the UK. As soon as we have an update in relation to the General License for Gatherings you will be updated. 

The following is an extract from the Avian Influenza Code of Practice for Pigeon Racing; for more info please visit this page.   

2) In Outbreak areas: where an Infected Premises has been confirmed and your loft is within the Protection or Surveillance Zones surrounding this:
• You must follow any restrictions imposed. You may need to apply for licences to undertake certain actions – information on the restrictions and the licences will bemade available on the government websites.
• In a 10km Surveillance Zone you can let your birds out for exercise, though they must not have an open loft to freely come and go, which would increase the chance of wild birds entering your loft and contaminating it.
• If your birds are located in the 3km Protection Zone you will be able to exercise your birds (not with an open loft) once preliminary cleaning and disinfection has been completed at the Infected Premises and the initial epidemiological investigations have been completed, to ensure there are no high risk contacts to your loft (for example workers, veterinary visits, feed deliveries, visitors, etc). If the time to complete the preliminary cleaning and disinfection and epidemiological investigations is long then if you think there may be welfare issues for your birds, exercising may be allowed following agreement from an official veterinary welfare request and obtaining a licence to do so.
• If your birds are located in the 3km Protection Zone you cannot train or race your birds until the larger Surveillance Zone has been lifted. Generally it takes around 30- 40 days after the outbreak has been confirmed to lift these zones, but may be significantly longer if further outbreaks occur in the area.

DEFRA UPDATE

Dear Stakeholder,

New Cases of Avian Influenza

  • On 27th March 2021 Avian influenza H5N8 was confirmed in broiler chickens at a commercial premises near Uttoxeter, East Staffordshire. On the 29th March 2021 this was confirmed as a highly pathogenic strain (HPAI H5N8). A 3km Protection and 10km Surveillance Zone has been put in place around the infected premises.
  • On 26th March 2021 Avian influenza H5N3 was confirmed in turkey breeders at a commercial premises near Winsford, Cheshire West and Chester. On 27th March 2021 this was confirmed as a low pathogenic strain (LPAI H5N3). A 1km Restricted Zone has been put in place around the infected premises.
Further details on the latest situation and the measures that apply in each of these disease control zones can be found on the GOV.UK website.

What does this mean for the lifting of the housing measures and the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ)?

  • In light of the two most recent cases of avian influenza we urgently reviewed the risk of avian influenza to both wild and kept birds and the implications of preceding with the lifting of the housing measures component of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ).
  • Following the review of the risk the compulsory housing measures for poultry and captive birds will still be lifted across GB at 23:59 on the 31st March 2021.
  • The AIPZs requiring enhanced biosecurity will remain in force across GB but Wednesday 31 March 2021 will be the last day poultry and other captive birds will need to be housed (housing restrictions end 23:59 31 March 2021).
  • Bird gatherings will remain prohibited.
  • However, housing remains mandatory for all poultry and captive birds which are located in the 3km Protection Zone surrounding an infected premises. Check where disease control zones are currently located and if you are in zone on our interactive map
  • The new cases of avian influenza emphasise that high standards of biosecurity remain essential as infection may still be present in the environment.
  • All bird keepers (whether they have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock) are legally required to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements under the AIPZ to protect their birds from this highly infectious virus.
  • To assist all bird keepers in complying with these rule we have published both biosecurity guidance and a biosecurity self-assessment checklist.
  • If bird keepers intend to allow their birds outside after 31 March they must take action now to prepare the outside areas. Read our guidance on how to prepare for safe release of your birds.
  • In particular it is critical that bird keepers prevent contact either directly or indirectly between their birds and wild birds including:
  • when birds are released they must be in a fenced area;
  • where necessary ponds and watercourses must be fenced off to minimise contact with wild birds;
  • taking action to protect bedding, feed and water sources at all times from contact with both wild birds and bird faeces.
Biosecurity guidance and information on the latest avian influenza situation are available at:

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Meeting of the Avian Influenza Stakeholder Group 23/03/21

This morning I attended a meeting of the above group, organised by Defra.

The following is a summary of the update provided by Defra:

1. As previously publicised, the housing measures will be removed from midnight 31st March 2021. 
2. An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will remain in place across the UK until the risk is assessed as low.
3. The current risk level has been assessed as being between mid and high level.
4. The General License for Bird Gatherings will be reinstated when the risk level is deemed to be low.
5. The next review will be carried out at the end of March.

A number of stakeholders asked why Defra had not published a ‘Road Map’ (plan) for when restriction could be lifted. The response outlined that it was impossible to predict when the risk would be assessed as low.

I raised the question would Defra be considering the lifting of the ban on gatherings for specific species of birds, i.e. before the ‘blanket ban was lifted’ .  It was outlined that pigeons were deemed a low risk of transmitting/spreading avian influenza. Defra’s reply was that it was possible that the gatherings could be permitted for certain species deemed low risk, in advance of other species of birds.

With this in mind I have written to the Defra representatives to request a meeting in advance of the next risk assessment at the end of March.

Ian Evans
CEO

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Update from APHA/DEFRA 19/03/21

The risk of avian influenza to both wild and kept birds has reduced to ‘medium’. The GB-wide Avian Influenza Prevention Zones (AIPZ) requiring enhanced biosecurity will remain in force but Wednesday 31st March 2021 will be the last day poultry and other captive birds will need to be housed in GB (housing restrictions end 23:59 31st March 2021). Bird gatherings will remain prohibited.
 
High standards of biosecurity remain essential as infection may still be present in the environment. If you intend to allow your birds outside after 31 March you must take action now to prepare the outside areas. Read our guidance on how to prepare for safe release of your birds available on GOV.UK
 
Further details of the latest avian influenza situation and guidance can be found on GOV.UK at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu.  
 
What does this mean for Pigeon Racing ?
Racing cannot go ahead until the bird gatherings license is reinstated. As outlined above bird gatherings will remain prohibited. Racing or multiple loft training cannot go ahead until this has been reinstated. 

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