Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced that the avian influenza (bird flu) housing measures currently in place will be lifted next week.

The measures, which were originally introduced in November of 2022 in a bid to halt the spread of the disease, will be lifted from midnight on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, the same day the measures are being lifted in the Republic of Ireland.

The lifting of the housing measures means that poultry and other captive birds will no longer need to be housed, and will be allowed to be kept outside.

However, the department said, the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) mandatory biosecurity measures will remain in force for all birds and all poultry gatherings will remain banned.

DAERA urged those who intend to allow their birds outside after April 18, to use the upcoming days to prepare their outside areas for the release of their birds.

“This will include cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents,” it said.

“Excellent biosecurity remains the best defence for reducing the risk of transmission of avian influenza to poultry or other captive birds and it is vital that this remains a regular and instinctive part of all bird-keepers routines.”

This news follows that of England and Wales, where bird flu housing restrictions will be lifted on the same day as Northern Ireland next week.

Great Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced the news on Tuesday (April 11) after reducing the risk of poultry exposure to bird flu in Great Britain from high to medium last week.

In the UK, there have been 176 confirmed cases of the H5N1 strain of bird flu since October 1, 2022.

149 cases have been confirmed in England; 21 cases in Scotland; five cases in Wales; and one case in Northern Ireland.