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Friday, July 2, 2010

Miyazaki eases foot-and-mouth restrictions


Staff writer

MIYAZAKI — Miyazaki Prefecture on Thursday partially rescinded restrictions on travel and public gatherings put in place to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.

News photo
Easing up: Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru speaks at a news conference at the prefectural office Thursday. KYODO PHOTO

The decision came a day after the last of more than 276,000 cows and pigs were vaccinated and slaughtered to contain the outbreak and 72 days after the first case was officially confirmed.

"On May 18, the prefectural government declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak of the disease. To prevent its spread, we called on all prefectural residents to refrain from unnecessary travel, and to postpone events," Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru told a news conference.

"From today, residents outside areas that have been designated restricted zones are free to travel, and public events outside the infected zones can go forward, as long as appropriate disinfectant measures are taken."

No confirmed or suspected cases have been observed since June 18.

If no new cases are confirmed by July 16, the prefecture is expected to lift the state of emergency.

The disease has had a devastating effect on Miyazaki's prized beef, as consumers nationwide shied away from it. In addition, the Miyazaki Truck Association reports trucks with Miyazaki license plates have been stopped and detained by police in other prefectures, even if they were carrying cargo that had nothing to do with beef and did not pass through the infected areas.

Higashikokubaru has spent the past few weeks desperately trying to convince the rest of the nation that fears about the disease spreading beyond Miyazaki are unfounded.

"I know there are people who worry the foot-and-mouth virus will be transported outside the prefecture. But that will not happen," he said, adding that not only Miyazaki beef but also other agricultural products, including the prefecture's mangoes, are safe.

Fears over foot-and-mouth have also led to a drastic decline in inbound tourism. Many bars and restaurants in the city of Miyazaki shut their doors in May and June due to a lack of customers, and hotel operators say room cancellations are in the thousands.



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