With foot and mouth disease spreading across Indonesia, vigilance against the disease has increased in New Zealand, which the government has called a “doomsday” biosecurity risk for the country’s farming sector.
“While not a threat to humans, it would devastate our national herd. Essentially, all animals that are of cloven hoof are at risk,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on July 25, adding that it could put 100,000 jobs at risk.
New Zealand already has protocols in place for people from Malaysia and China against the disease but will now also apply those measures to Indonesia.
Damien O’Connor, the minister of agriculture, told Newshub that, like in Australia, all parcels and freight containers from Indonesia would also be checked.
“Over 60 percent of our exports come from the primary sector,” he said. “This would affect every single New Zealander, which is why we’re asking every one of us to keep an eye out.”
“If we’re travelling overseas, keep an eye out for where we go and ensure we’re not in contact with animals.”
Travellers returning from Bali via Australia—as no direct flights between Indonesia and New Zealand currently operate—will be required to do foot baths, have baggage checked, and asked if they have been near any animals. They are also banned from carrying meat products.
High Alert Levels
The changes in New Zealand’s biosecurity measures come as fragments of foot and mouth disease were detected in pork products at a Melbourne retailer in Australia, bringing the disease “one step closer” to New Zealand.
The detected fragments did not contain the live virus, meaning Australia remains free of the disease.
National’s agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger said it was “pleasing” to see the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) upping the rules for people returning from countries where the disease is present.
“Every possible avenue for the disease to enter the country needs to be identified and on high alert,” she said in a statement. “Farmers need to re-ensure their farms have stringent biosecurity measures in place, while all returning travellers must carefully declare where they have been while overseas.”
However, while the New Zealand government has significantly increased biosecurity protocols against Indonesia, the agriculture minister said its risk remains low.
“But it’s important that everyone in New Zealand understands what that risk is,” O’Connor told Newstalk ZB. “Low risk still does not mean this is not significant in terms of its possibilities for New Zealand.”
The risk of foot and mouth disease has been present for decades, particularly highlighted after the United Kingdom got hit with an outbreak in 2001, costing its economy over eight billion British pounds (US$9.6 billion).