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Foot-and-mouth crisis timetable

LONDON, England -- Here is the timetable of the main developments in the foot-and-mouth outbreak that has plunged the UK livestock industry into crisis.

MONDAY February 19 -- A routine veterinary inspection at an abattoir, in Essex, near London, shows "highly suspicious" signs of foot-and-mouth disease in 27 pigs.

TUESDAY February 20 -- The UK Ministry of Agriculture confirms the outbreak and a five-mile exclusion zone is set up around the abattoir and around the two farms that supplied the pigs (in Buckinghamshire and on the Isle of Wight).

WEDNESDAY February 21 -- The Government bans all exports of live animals, meat and dairy products while the European Commission also announces a ban on exports of all live animals and animal products from Britain until March 1. Northern Ireland imposes a complete ban on the import of animal and dairy products from the UK.

THURSDAY February 22 -- A third case of foot-and-mouth is confirmed at a cattle farm in Essex. The public are advised to avoid farmland to prevent spread of the disease while hunting is suspended for seven days. The Ramblers' Association advises people against rural walks.

FRIDAY February 23 -- Three more outbreaks are confirmed, bringing the total to six. Woburn Safari Park, in Bedfordshire, temporarily closes to protect its animals from the disease, and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, in Bedfordshire, bans all cars. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds closes all its nature reserves for a week and the National Trust announces the closure of all parks containing livestock.

SATURDAY February 24 -- UK Chief vet Jim Scudamore announces that the mass slaughter of thousands of pigs and cattle on eight farms across England has begun in an attempt to wipe out the disease. Agriculture ministry workers begin constructing a giant "funeral pyre" for 800 slaughtered pigs in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, where the outbreak was believed to have started.

SUNDAY February 25 -- A seventh outbreak is confirmed on a cattle and sheep farm in Highampton, near Okehampton, in Devon. Three royal parks are shut and public access is halted to Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Hampton Court Home Park, all in south-west London.

MONDAY February 26 -- As the number of confirmed cases reaches 12, Germany -- which received an export order of animals from the Devon farm, which carried the disease -- introduces checks on people arriving from Britain to ensure nobody brings in meat or other animal products that may be contaminated. Belgium introduces a four-week ban on the transportation of goats and sheep and the Netherlands has imposed similar restrictions after slaughtering 3,000 animals over the weekend. The Irish authorities set up army checkpoints at all points of entry from Britain and Northern Ireland.

TUESDAY February 27 -- Britain extends a freeze on the movement of livestock and the government announces a £152 million ($220m) compensation package for farmers affected be the crisis. Horse racing fixtures are banned for one week, and a rugby international in Ireland against Wales is postponed as confirmed cases reach 18.

THURSDAY March 1 –- Six new farms are confirmed to have the disease, including the first cases in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Soldiers are assigned to border checks in the Republic of Ireland to try and stop the spread. In Britain the spectre of meat shortages looms with one supermarket running out of pork and lamb. France prepares to slaughter another 30,000 animals on top of the 20,000 already culled.

FRIDAY March 2 –- There are now 39 cases in Britain. Supermarkets strike back at accusations by the prime minister Tony Blair that they have promoted the crisis by pressuring farmers to produce cheap food, saying he is looking for a scapegoat. Restrictions across mainland Europe step up with many ports of entry requiring travellers from Britain to disinfect their footwear and vehicle tyres.

SATURDAY March 3 -– France and Belgium investigate their first suspected cases of the disease, the results of initial tests are negative. Confirmed cases in Britain rise to 52. The UK Agriculture Minister announces that European Union aid due to farmers to compensate for the strong pound value will be sped up.

SUNDAY March 4 –- Tests are conducted on a farm in Denmark after a sheep shows symptoms of the disease. Initial results prove negative but an exclusion zone is put in place and further samples taken. In Britain 57 cases are confirmed including one on a farm owned by the Prince of Wales.

MONDAY March 5 -- Second tests on suspect animals in Belgium and Denmark prove negative. Licenses in Britain allow livestock from disease-free areas to move directly to abattoirs.

TUESDAY March 6 -- European ministers propose extending the ban on British exports of livestock until March 27 and putting a ban on livestock markets but veterinary experts reject a call for mass vaccination. Confirmed cases in Britain reach 76.

WEDNESDAY March 7 -- Italy imposes a worldwide ban on imports of livestock susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease. In Britain the outbreak claims one of the highlights of the jump racing season with the postponement of the annual Cheltenham Festival. The Irish Rugby Football Union confirms it has cancelled its Six Nations matches against England and Scotland.

THURSDAY March 8 -- With the toll topping the 100 mark the UK's chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore warns the outbreak "is going to last for a long time." The Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin reports that a cattle farm in Orimattila in southern Finland has been isolated after a suspected case of foot and mouth-disease.

FRIDAY March 9 -- Cases in Britain rise to 111. It is announced that Scottish farmers in areas unaffected by the foot-and-mouth outbreak are allowed to move livestock on welfare grounds as the lambing season starts.

SATURDAY March 10 -- Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore warns there is evidence the virus has spread from sheep and pigs to cattle.

SUNDAY March 11 -- A slaughter of cattle begins in Germany after calves on a farm in the Lower Saxony region show symptoms of the disease. UK Agriculture Minister Nick Brown insists in a television interview that the disease has now been brought under control.

MONDAY March 12 -- A herd of cattle on a farm in France is destroyed after veterinarians identified a suspected outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease on a farm where six cattle from the 113-strong herd are discovered with symptoms. Britain's Chief Veterinary Officer says the country is now in the throes of a "major outbreak" as 19 more cases are confirmed, taking total confirmed outbreaks nationwide to 183.

TUESDAY March 13 -- The first case of foot-and-mouth disease in mainland Europe is confirmed in France as tests carried out on a cattle farm in the northwest of the country prove positive. The United States and Canada ban meat and meat products from the European Union following the discovery.

WEDNESDAY March 14 Argentina -- the world's fifth largest beef exporter -- confirm an outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Buenos Aires province. Australia and New Zealand step up preventative measures to insulate their livestock from the disease. They announce that passengers arriving from Britain will face tighter scrutiny before clearing customs.

THURSDAY March 15 -- Gulf Arab states launch measures to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth after the disease surfaces in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) report 10 cases in cows. Britain's Agriculture Minister Nick Brown announces plans for a massive pre-emptive cull of apparently healthy livestock living around infected sites.

FRIDAY March 16 -- Gerry Kiely, a senior European Union official in Washington attacks the United States for imposing a ban on meat and livestock from the whole of the EU, following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Britain and France.

SATURDAY March 17 -- Following protests, the British government postpones its pre-emptive cull until the scientific reasons behind it had been explained to the farmers concerned. The Irish government cancels St Patrick’s Day celebrations to avoid the large-scale movement of people around the country.

SUNDAY March 18 -- The British government admits it has no idea when the crisis will end, as the number of confirmed cases tops 300. Economists warn the outbreak is likely to cost the UK nine billion pounds ($13 billion) in terms of lost earnings for the agriculture and tourism industries.

MONDAY March 19 -- EU agriculture ministers reject calls for a vaccination campaign, because it would cost all member countries their “foot-and-mouth-free” status in world trade markets. Britain’s Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore meets farmers in Cumbria, northern England, and insists the pre-emptive cull will go on.

TUESDAY March 20 -– The National Farmers’ Union in the UK accuses the British government of acting too slowly in the early days of the crisis and says the slaughter of thousands of apparently healthy animals could have been avoided. Troops are called in to help dispose of the backlog of carcasses.

WEDNESDAY March 21 –- The Netherlands becomes the second country in mainland Europe to fall victim to the disease when three cases are confirmed. The government imposes a ban on the transport of all animals. The EU bans Dutch livestock exports.

THURSDAY March 22 -- The first case of foot-and-mouth is confirmed in the Irish Republic. Infected sheep were found on a farm situated within a 10-kilometre (3.4-mile) exclusion zone placed around the holding in County Armagh where Northern Ireland's only outbreak of the disease was confirmed earlier this month.

FRIDAY March 23 -- France’s Ministry of Agriculture confirms a second case of foot-and-mouth, this time on a farm near Paris. The number of confirmed cases tops 500 in the UK where government scientists warn the outbreak could see up to half of the country’s 62 million cattle, sheep and pigs being slaughtered. European Union vets authorise the limited use of vaccines to help fight the disease but rule out a mass inoculation programme.

SATURDAY March 24 –- The French government introduces a self-imposed export ban on all meat, dairy and animal produce not treated against foot-and-mouth. Ministers in Britain approve plans for a nationwide cull of apparently healthy animals near the site of all outbreaks.

SUNDAY March 25 –- The UK Government convenes a crisis management committee to deal with the spreading outbreak. The British Army begins digging huge pits at a disused military airfield, near Carlisle, in Cumbria, for slaughtered animals. The number of confirmed cases in the UK tops 600.

MONDAY March 26 -- The mass burial of thousands of slaughtered sheep begins in Cumbria.

TUESDAY March 27 -- Thousands of slaughtered animals are being buried in a mass grave in Cumbria. The government considers extending a planned cull on healthy animals to all livestock within seven kilometres (four miles) of the worst outbreaks.

WEDNESDAY March 28 -- Britain applies to the EU for permission to use a vaccination programme. Dutch authorities began a limited vaccination program. The British army deployed to slaughter animals for the first time. The mass slaughter of thousands of live sheep begins at the mass burial site in Cumbria.

THURSDAY March 29 -- Netherlands total reaches 10 with confirmation of 3 more cases. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair meets with farmers' leaders to discuss whether a vaccination programme should be implemented.

FRIDAY March 30 -- A North Carolina hog suspected of carrying foot-and-mouth disease tests negative. The Dutch Government is preparing to slaughter up to 100,000 animals.

SATURDAY March 31 -- UK National total of cases rises to more than 840. Extra soldiers have been drafted in to help attack the outbreak. The UK Government says the army is beginning to bring the outbreak under control and puts on hold plans to start vaccinating animals.

SUNDAY April 1 -- Tony Blair launches a campaign to reassure tourists Britain remains "open for business."

MONDAY April 2 -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair announces a delay to local elections in the UK. The polls are being put back from May 3 until June 7, a move widely expected to be mirrored for national elections. UK farmers await a decision from the government on whether to go ahead with the vaccination of dairy cattle.

TUESDAY April 3 -- Officials investigate a third suspected case of foot-and-mouth disease in Germany. About 100 pigs have been destroyed on a farm in North Rhine-Westphalia -- near the border with the Netherlands. Britain's National Farmers Union (NFU) demands an immediate export ban on German beef, sparked by the seventh import of meat with banned spinal cord to the UK. The European Commission relaxes bans on livestock products from France and Northern Ireland amid hopes they have contained the disease.

WEDNESDAY April 4 -- The number of confirmed cases in Britain breaks through the 1,000 barrier. The Country's chief scientist (Professor David King) announces that a mass slaughter of Britain's livestock is beginning to curb the epidemic. Portugal has lifted a temporary suspension on bullfights, but is maintaining strict controls. EU veterinary experts have agreed to extend a ban on British meat exports, but eased trade restrictions elsewhere in Europe.

THURSDAY April 5 -- The total number of cases of foot-and-mouth disease confirmed in the UK has risen to 1,025. The government says more vets are arriving in Britain from the U.S. to help keep the slaughter policy on track. The number of soldiers involved in combating the disease is set to almost double over the next two weeks from 1,500 to 2,900. Rare breeds of traditional Dutch livestock face extinction.

FRIDAY April 6 -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair travels to Yorkshire and is scheduled to give interviews to French, Japanese and U.S. media to hammer home his Britain is "open for business" message. Man charged with murdering a slaughterman who was hit by a bolt gun during a cull of livestock.

SATURDAY April 7 -- About 200 Dutch farmers blocked roads around the village of Kootwijkerbroek in protest at the killing of healthy animals.

SUNDAY April 8 -- 1,106 sites in the UK affected. Foot-and-mouth dominates an informal two-day meeting of European agricultural ministers in Sweden.

MONDAY April 9 -- The number of cases stands at 1,139. A survey carried out by NFU Countryside, an affiliate organization to the National Farmers' Union, suggests that almost two-thirds of people who had intended to visit the British countryside for Easter have now changed their plans. The tourist industry in the Republic of Ireland is also affected, with many visitors who would have passed through Britain canceling their trips. Hundreds of farmers blockade a Dutch village to protest against the slaughter of healthy livestock. Cattle traders barred access to Lyon international airport in protest at the financial costs.

TUESDAY April 10 -- UK confirmed cases number 1,163 amid fears that the virus is reaching new areas by human transmission.

WEDNESDAY April 11 -- Britain's Government condemn "irresponsible" farmers who have breached the livestock movement ban.

THURSDAY April 12 -- Travel agents report bookings for overseas holidays up 15 percent on last year. Prime Minister Tony Blair makes a last-ditch attempt to persuade Britons to spend the Easter holidays in the UK.

FRIDAY April 13 -- French Farm Minister Jean Glavany says Britain did not do enough to prevent the virus spreading to continental Europe. Netherlands confirms three new cases of the disease, Ireland confirms second case. UK cases rise beyond 1,260. Six farmers arrested in the Netherlands during a protest against the slaughter of healthy livestock.

SATURDAY April 14 -- A controversial Loyalist parade is called off in Northern Ireland amid foot-and-mouth fears.

SUNDAY April 15 -- UK vaccination proposals back on political agenda as ministers consider plans to inoculate some cattle in Cumbria and Devon. Third case confirmed in Northern Ireland. UK confirms 1,306 cases.

MONDAY April 16 -- UK emergency committee says vaccination only a "possibility." New case across the border brings Scotland's total to 155.

TUESDAY April 17 -- The British Government emphasises its "open for business" message while also considering mass vaccinations to beat the foot-and-mouth outbreak. New Zealand's lamb exporters emerge as a key beneficiary of Europe's foot-and-mouth crisis, driving the nation's economy to unseasonably robust growth.

THURSDAY April 19 -- The UK's foot-and-mouth epidemic is "fully under control," the government's chief scientist says.

FRIDAY April 20 -- Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart delays her London stage debut -- blaming the UK elections and the foot-and-mouth crisis. Disease restrictions are lifted in two English counties as the government insists the epidemic is under control.

SATURDAY April 21 -- Pressure mounts on the UK government to introduce a vaccination programme. Thousands of French farmers stage demonstrations across the country demanding financial support for the ailing livestock industry.

SUNDAY April 22 -- President Bush's top environmental official say the highly contagious disease could strike in the U.S., but said the administration was taking every precaution to avert its spread from Europe. A new case is confirmed in The Netherlands bringing the total to 26. Kuwait says it is unconcerned over the detection of a few cases in the Gulf Arab state.

MONDAY April 23 -- The British government defends the use of giant pyres to dispose of animals killed in the mass foot-and-mouth cull, after health fears are raised.

TUESDAY April 24 -- UK health officials say they are investigating a suspected case of foot-and-mouth disease in a human.

WEDNESDAY April 25 -- Health officials in the UK say they are investigating two more cases of suspected foot-and-mouth disease in humans. A baby calf in Devon who survived the cull lying under the dead body of its mother becomes a national cause celebre. Ministry vets arrive to inspect her but her owners say they will need a court order to put her down. She is named Phoenix and the press begs Agriculture ministry officials to spare her life. In the evening, PM Tony Blair orders a change to the mass culling policy, sparing healthy animals and in particular baby Phoenix. The ITN news broadcasts the headline "Tony Blair saves Phoenix." A Downing Street spokesman denies the move was designed to win votes in the forthcoming general election.

THURSDAY April 26 -- A change in government policy is announced which ends the policy of slaughtering healthy cattle on farms neighbouring those infected. Up to today, 467,000 healthy animals have been culled out of the total of 2.4 million.

FRIDAY April 27 -- British health officials say the first three people tested for human foot-and-mouth do not have the disease. Meanwhile a survey for the UK’s Farmers Weekly suggests after the foot-and-mouth crisis more than a third of farmers will scale down their businesses. The National Farmers' Union (NFU) replies that this could be a good thing with farmers opting for "quality not quantity" in their farming methods.

SATURDAY April 28 -- The first 13 humans tested for foot-and-mouth disease are all cleared by British health officials. However, the Public Health Laboratory Service said two more suspected cases were being investigated. Infected area restrictions on 1,300 farms in Britain are lifted.

THURSDAY May 3 -- Prime Minister Tony Blair announces the disease is under control but warns people to remain "vigilant," saying, "The battle is not over yet, but I believe we are on the home straight." He emphasises that all 15 humans tested for the disease have been cleared. Infected area restrictions affecting 16,000 farms lifted.

FRIDAY May 4 -- The English Tourism Council warns that the foot-and-mouth epidemic could cost the industry as many as 250,000 jobs. It says many countryside tourism businesses are still facing "financial ruin," even though the worst of the outbreak appears to be over.

SUNDAY May 6 -- The UK Ministry of Agriculture reports the average number of new cases per day is down from 11 to 7.

MONDAY May 7 -- UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is believed to be ready to announce a date for a general election following a meeting of ministers. The ballot is widely expected to be held on June 7.

TUESDAY May 8 -- Restrictions on the movement of cattle and pigs across most of the EU are eased, including the export of pigs from the Netherlands, where there have been 26 confirmed cases. Prime Minister Tony Blair announces that a general election will be held in the UK on June 7. He names the poll date following a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at which he sought formal consent to dissolve Parliament and set an election in motion. Blair's Labour Party, which won power in a 1997 landslide, is heavily favoured to win a new election. The expected date of May 3 was postponed in early April, at the height of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

WEDNESDAY May 9 - Brazil’s southern ranching circuit reports a second suspected case of foot-and-mouth.

SATURDAY May 11 - UK officials admit tens of thousands of animals may have been needlessly slaughtered as around a third of tests on animals had proved negative.

MONDAY May 15 - British NFU farmers’ leader Ben Gill says eco-terrorists may have deliberately triggered the foot-and-mouth epidemic in Britain and other countries throughout the world. His speech, in Australia, outrages environmentalists.

TUESDAY May 16 - The Scottish Executive announces it is relaxing its policy of automatically culling sheep, pigs and goats within three miles of a foot-and-mouth case.

WEDNESDAY May 17 - For the first time since the outbreak began, no new cases are reported by officials.

THURSDAY May 18 - Ireland finally celebrates St. Patrick's Day, two months late after festivities were postponed due to the foot-and-mouth crisis.

SUNDAY, May 19 - Brazil says it has located three more outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease. The authorities prepare to slaughter herds of animals.

TUESDAY, May 22 - A ban on moving livestock is imposed in Britain’s Yorkshire Dales after the disease returns following an apparent lull. A cluster of fifteen cases have been reported in ten days in a small area near Settle.

WEDNESDAY May 23 -- Farmers in an area of northern England previously unaffected by the UK's recent foot-and-mouth epidemic say they fear their livelihoods are on the brink of being wiped out.

FRIDAY May 26 -- The Bush administration eased a ban on European pork imports that was imposed two months ago due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

TUESDAY May 29 -The latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease on the Yorkshire border has been spread by people, animals and vehicles, Britain's agriculture ministry says.

WEDNESDAY June 6 -- As the British prepare to vote for a new government on Thursday, one part of the electorate -- those who live in rural communities - say they are feeling increasingly marginalised.

FRIDAY June 8 -- UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour government wins a historic second landslide election victory, with its vote scarcely dented by the foot-and-mouth crisis. Analysts say Blair’s postponement of the election date because of foot-and-mouth is fully vindicated.

SATURDAY June 9 -- Foot-and-mouth is confirmed on a farm in Somerset, west England, an area before untouched by the disease.

WEDNESDAY June 30 -- Britain's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease reaches 100 days, with officials warning against complacency as the number of new cases falls.

THURSDAY July 26 -- Thousands of sheep are ordered destroyed in the Brecon Beacons hills area of Wales after fresh cases of foot-and-mouth are confirmed.

SATURDAY July 28 -A cull of 4,000 sheep on the Welsh Brecon Beacons is completed in an attempt to stop the disease spreading across the national park.

MONDAY July 30 -The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) began an investigation after a farmer in Pembroke, west Wales, said she received a phone-call from somebody demanding £2,000 in exchange for infecting her livestock. Defra reveals investigating one other case. Farmers' Union of Wales said offer was "evil."

TUESDAY July 31 -- Wales is to cull another 1,700 sheep grazing on the Brecon Beacons are more animals tests positive for foot-and-mouth disease.

SUNDAY August 5 -- The spiralling cost of Britain's foot-and-mouth crisis is in the spotlight after it is revealed that some farmers are claiming compensation of more than a million pounds ($1.4m).

MONDAY August 20 -- The first live cattle sale takes place in the UK -- albeit in the remote far-north Orkney islands, 300 miles from the nearest outbreak -- as the epidemic passes the six month point. The cost of the outbreak in compensation alone is put at $3 billion.

MONDAY August 27 -- Farmers in the English county of Northumberland fear restrictions on livestock will remain in force after a clutch of new foot-and-mouth cases are confirmed. Restrictions had been due to be relaxed after the area had been virus-free for six months. Government farms minister Larry Whitty describes the development as "very worrying."

FRIDAY August 31 -- The army are called in to help the disposal of animal carcasses from the renewed outbreak in Northumberland. Opposition Conservative Agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo says the decision to usre the army again means the outbreak must be "more serious than the government would admit."

MONDAY September 3 -- Three new cases confirmed in the UK sees the total figure pass the 2,000 mark.



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Ministry of Agriculture
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