The mandatory housing measures currently in place to help halt the spread of avian influenza (bird flu) will be lifted in England and Wales next Tuesday (April 18).

The measures were put in place in November 2022, as the UK was battling its largest-ever outbreak of the highly pathogenic disease.

The news follows the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra’s) decision last week to reduce the risk of poultry exposure to bird flu in Great Britain from high to medium.

Despite both of these advancements, the UK’s chief veterinary officer (CVO) Christine Middlemiss has advised that birdkeepers should still practice good biosecurity.

“Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe,” she said.

“It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers and vets who have played their part in keeping flocks safe this winter that we are in a position to take this action.

“However, the unprecedented nature of this outbreak has proven it’s more important than ever for bird keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.”

The government said that the enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) will remain in force as infection may still be circulating in the environment for several more weeks

It said the scale of bird flu outbreaks across the UK and Europe have been “unprecedented” since the outbreak began in late October of 2021.

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.