The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Defra, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland are working together to run a national foot and mouth disease simulation exercise called Exercise Blackthorn.
While the risk of foot and mouth disease arriving in the UK remains low, the aim of Exercise Blackthorn is to test all current contingency plans for a national outbreak of the disease. It will establish the current state of readiness while identifying issues and improvements in policies, plans, instructions, structures and recovery procedures employed in managing an outbreak.
The Exercise will simulate a medium to large scale outbreak that has spread from England to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The first simulation exercise was on 8 February 2018 where suspicion of foot and mouth disease was simulated. A further table-top exercise will take place on 8 March 2018 followed by a real-time exercise on 25 and 26 April 2018. Exercise Blackthorn will end on 7 June 2018 in a final table-top exercise where the simulated outbreak will be investigated to the point of disease eradication and recovery aspects considered.
The EU Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Directive 2003/85/EC requires member states to exercise their contingency plans twice within a five-year period or during the five-year period after the outbreak of a major epizootic disease has been effectively controlled and eradicated.
An exercise evaluation report will be published in autumn 2018.
Source: APHA News Release, 7 February 2018