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Foot and Mouth disease threat an ongoing one

Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said that today's news that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had declared the battle against foot and mouth disease in Britain was over had no relevance to New Zealand.

Mr Sutton said he was delighted that Britain felt it had the disease under control. They had some way to go before the country would be declared disease-free.

"It has been a nightmare for them."

However, Mr Sutton warned that the British news did not mean that New Zealanders could relax. The risks to New Zealand were still high.

"New Zealanders should always be vigilant when returning home from abroad. Even when the foot and mouth outbreak is confirmed as eradicated in Britain, it is still widespread in a lot of places a lot closer to New Zealand than Britain. We can't afford to relax."

Mr Sutton said that during last year there were almost 500 reported outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in South-East Asia alone. Many more could have been unreported.

"We must assume that we are constantly at risk. That's why the Government has built up New Zealand's border control measures."

People returning to New Zealand had to fill in declaration cards accurately and not bring in risk material, he said.

"The British experience was a wake-up call to a major threat to New Zealand's livelihood from foot and mouth disease. The official declaration in Britain that the disease is considered to be under control there in no way lessens the responsibility of all New Zealanders to get themselves informed about the rules on quarantine goods and make sure that they are followed."

ENDS

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