Exercise Waratah, which involved Defra, the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) and the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in New South Wales, took place in late January with a view to “strengthening the two nations’ joint control strategies for the disease”.
The focus of the exercise was to assess how the movement restrictions would be applied in practice to best manage an ASF outbreak. The three main objectives were to: explore the theory of using rapid risk assessments to make timely decisions; practice using a rapid risk assessment framework to make decisions in a biosecurity event and; validate the format of the exercise for building capability in using rapid risk assessments.
Although there has never been an outbreak of ASF in the UK or Australia, in the event of an outbreak, disease control measures mean the governments will put in place movement controls for all pig-related businesses, potentially including feed delivery, slaughter houses, pig breeding units or movement of animals to sales.
The UK’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “While there has never been an outbreak of African swine fever in the UK, we are in no way complacent and have robust measures in place to protect against it.
“The UK has strong links with Australia and scientific cooperation is one of them so I welcome this initiative to share information and experience, helping us to maintain our high biosecurity standards.”
ASF has already been confirmed in Belgium, Slovakia, Serbia, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, North Korea, South Korea, the Philippines, Timor Leste and Indonesia. In June 2019 product containing ASF DNA was found in meat seized by port authorities in Northern Ireland before entering the country.
In December 2019, the Australian government said it was on high alert to ensure the disease doesn’t enter the country, especially as it moves across Asia.
“With ASF edging nearer and posing a threat that would cripple our $5.2 billion pork industry, as well as threaten our trade reputation, environment and economy, we are asking Australians and international visitors to be on guard over the coming months,” said Agriculture Department biosecurity head Lyn O’Connell.