DEFRA lifted the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) from midday on 16 August as the risk of infection for all poultry is now considered low.

England, Wales and Scotland made the move at the same time, with Northern Ireland already having dropped its AIPZ in late May.

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The AIPZ makes biosecurity a legal requirement – but Defra said that, while the risk in kept birds has reduced, all bird keepers should still always follow enhanced measures to prevent the risk of future outbreaks.

Bird gatherings for showing poultry remain banned.

Policymakers at Defra view the AIPZ as a mechanism for communicating that the risk of AI is higher or lower, which is why it has been lifted despite ongoing cases.

It is expected that the measure will be reintroduced in the Autumn if cases begin to ramp up again.

The UK has faced its largest ever outbreak of bird flu with over 130 cases confirmed across the country since late October.

And cases are ongoing – there has been a cluster of outbreaks over the past four weeks in Devon.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: Now we are in the summer months and experiencing higher temperatures, the risk to poultry has now been reduced across Great Britain and so the time is right to lift the AIPZ.

High standards

“This would not have been possible without the hard work of all bird keepers, who have upheld high biosecurity standards for many months.

“However, there are still localised areas of risk as we have seen recently, and therefore it’s vital that everyone keeps biosecurity and cleanliness at the forefront of their minds to keep their flocks safe.

Defra’s most recent rapid risk assessment, which informs decisions over AIPZs and housing orders, said migratory wild ducks, geese and swans departed the UK in late spring, and wild bird events declined during early summer.

Seabird colonines

“However, in an unprecedented sequence of events, infection spread to seabird colonies around the coast with mass die-offs observed.

This is ongoing although the auks have already started to disperse and gannets and skuas will
follow over the coming months.

“With the exception of a few inland moorhens and raptors, the events in wild birds are confined to coastal areas and the risk of HPAI H5 infection in wild birds in GB is therefore maintained at MEDIUM for June/July 2022.

“The risk of exposure to poultry has now been reduced from MEDIUM to LOW (with high uncertainty) for premises with sub-optimal biosecurity) and maintained at LOW (with low uncertainty) for premises with stringent biosecurity.

“The high uncertainty for poultry with poor biosecurity reflects the unprecedented events in breeding UK birds over the summer and that we recognise that there may well be sporadic Infected Premises confirmed.”