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Shenzhen, SAR agree on poultry culling
By Teddy Ng (HK Edition)
Updated: 2006-02-07 07:01

SHENZHEN: All chickens within a 5-kilometre radius of any farm with an H5N1 outbreak will be killed, including those on the mainland, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow confirmed yesterday.

Chow was speaking after meeting officials from Shenzhen Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau in Shenzhen of Guangdong Province.

Both sides agreed that should any farm close to the border have an H5N1 outbreak, chickens within 5 kilometres radius of that farm - even if some of them are across the border - would be killed to prevent the spread of the virus.

"This applies to both Hong Kong and the mainland," he said.

The one-hour meeting was held to discuss measures to control the bird flu outbreak after chickens and wild birds found in Hong Kong had been infected with the virus.

Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) confirmed yesterday that a common magpie found in Yuen Tun Village, Sham Tseng, on February 2 tested positive for H5N1. Earlier a chicken smuggled from the mainland to Sha Tau Kok was also killed by the virus.

The department also collected dead birds found in Tung Chau Street in Tai Kok Tsui, Nam Cheong Street in Sham Shui Po, and Nga Tsin Wai Road in Kowloon City for tests.

Shenzhen bureau director Liu Shengli showed Chow and other SAR officials, including Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene Gregory Leung, how they use a computer system to control human flow across the border.

Chow said relevant authorities would take measures against smuggling of poultry into Hong Kong.

He also said mainland authority would take stringent measures to ensure chickens imported to Hong Kong were safe to eat.

The number of registered chicken farms in Shenzhen had been reduced from over 100 to 35 because of stringent requirements of accreditation and licensing, he said.

He added that mainland authority would also step up inspection of registered chicken farms to ensure that the chickens would not be infected with H5N1 during the transportation process.

"The authority will ensure that chickens are vaccinated," he said.

"Chickens on the mainland will go through a five-day surveillance period before being imported to Hong Kong," he said.

Chow said Hong Kong would stop importation of mainland chickens should there be an H5N1 outbreak.

He said the quota for daily importation would also be adjusted based on the situation of the virus, but added the SAR government currently had no plan to reduce the 30,000 daily quotas.

The SAR government has earlier proposed to amend the Public Health (Animals and Birds) Regulation to ban backyard poultry keeping, aiming at individuals who keep less than 20 poultry.

Unlike licensed farms, there is no biosecurity arrangement nor systematic vaccination for poultry in backyard farms to prevent the outbreak of bird flu.

AFCD officers have called on backyard farms in 36 villages around Yuen Tuen Shan Village in Sha Tau Kok to hand in their poultry, but many of them refused.

The unauthorized keeping of poultry would be an offence and subject to a fine of HK$50,000 to HK$100,000. About 1,800 households keep several thousand poultry in Hong Kong.

Racing pigeons

Chow said yesterday that the government would consider exempting racing pigeons from the law. "The mainland has implemented a registration system for racing pigeons, requiring all pigeons to be vaccinated. We will consider introducing such a policy in Hong Kong," he said.

Legislative Council's Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene will discuss the amendment today.

(HK Edition 02/07/2006 page2)

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