Foot and mouth plans to be tested across the UK

Warning notices at a farm know locally as The Klondyke, near Egham, Surrey, after sheep suspected to have foot and mouth were culled last night. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The UK’s ability to deal with a national foot and mouth disease outbreak will be put to the test over the next few months.

Government departments across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are testing contingency plans for dealing with an outbreak of the devastating disease via Exercise Blackthorn.

This is a national foot and mouth disease simulation exercise, which will establish the current state of readiness for any potential outbreak, while identifying any issues and improvements to be made in policies, plans, structures and recovery procedures. It will simulate a medium – to large – scale outbreak that has spread from England to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“It is important to regularly review our plans and identify any issues that may arise when responding to an outbreak of disease,” said Scotland’s chief vet, Sheila Voas. “A national exercise gives a chance to share good practice with other administrations in the UK, sharing knowledge and agreeing lessons to improve our effectiveness.”

Exercise Blackthorn will run until June.

An exercise evaluation report will be published in the autumn.