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Compulsory housing measures for poultry and captive birds are set to be lifted in Northern Ireland at midnight on Tuesday 13 April, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots announced today.

The housing measures, which were introduced across Northern Ireland on 23 December 2020 as one of a range of measures to stop the spread of Avian Influenza (AI), have been a vital tool in protecting flocks across the country from the disease. AI has been circulating in wild birds and two cases of highly pathogenic AI was discovered in two separate commercial premises in Clough and Lisburn.

Announcing the decision to lift the housing requirements, Minister Poots said: “This will be welcome news for poultry keepers across Northern Ireland who have put great effort into keeping their flocks safe this winter.

“We have taken swift action to contain and eliminate this disease. Measures put in place have been successful in helping to contain the disease and, provided that there are no new significant cases between now and mid-April, the current measures are due to be relaxed. The last confirmed case in poultry in NI was in January. However, my message remains to all bird keepers - whether they have just a few birds or thousands – that they must continue do their bit to maintain strict biosecurity measures on their premises so that we do not lose the progress that we have made over the past few months.”

While the risk of bird flu has been assessed as ‘moderate’, the risk of outbreaks is likely to persist for several weeks. As a result, the enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Protection Zone (AIPZ) on 1 December will remain in place. Good biosecurity is the most effective measure of disease control available.

NI’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Robert Huey said: “I want to remind bird keepers that the requirements of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone still need to be adhered to. The risk of avian influenza has not disappeared and infection may still be present in the environment. Indeed we have seen two further cases of notifiable avian influenza confirmed in GB in the last week. These confirmations further highlight the need for excellent site biosecurity to keep the risk of disease to a minimum for NI poultry. Although the conditions of the AIPZ will be kept under regular review, my advice is that poultry keepers apply enhanced biosecurity measures at all times to prevent and mitigate future outbreaks.”

Bird keepers are advised to use the next two weeks to prepare ranges and outdoor areas for release of their birds. This will include cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.

In addition, when birds are allowed out in the middle of April, all poultry and captive bird keepers will need to keep taking extra precautions, such as cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to non-