A mandatory poultry housing order will be introduced for Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex next week as bird flu cases continue to rise.
The strict measures cover all poultry and captive birds, and will be introduced from 00:01 on 12 October following a decision by the UK's Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO).
A growing number of avian influenza cases have been confirmed on commercial farms and in backyard birds across the counties.
The housing order, announced by the CVO on Saturday (8 October), legally requires all bird keepers in these hotspots to keep their birds indoors.
It also means keepers must follow stringent biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the disease, regardless of type or size.
The new housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity measures that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) last month, covering Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex.
A separate regional AIPZ without housing measures remains in force across Cornwall, Devon, Isles of Scilly and parts of Somerset, which was introduced in late August.
The introduction of the housing measures comes after the disease was detected at 16 premises in the affected areas since the beginning of September, as well as several reports in wild birds.
Over the last year, the UK has faced its largest ever outbreak of avian influenza, with over 160 cases confirmed since late October 2021.
Christine Middlemiss, the UK's CVO, encouraged all bird keepers - including commercial farmers and backyard keepers - to use the next five days to prepare.
She said the government expected the risk to continue to rise over the coming months as migratory birds return to the UK.
"We are now taking further action to help protect flocks from this highly infectious and devastating disease," she explained.
"Keepers in these hotspots must continue to follow strict biosecurity standards to protect their flock, and should use the next few days to prepare and move their birds indoors."
What does the housing measure mean?
The mandatory measure means bird keepers in the affected area must:
• Housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
• Cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
• Reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control
• Keep records of mortality, movement of poultry and poultry products and any changes in production
• Thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
• Keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points
The regionalised housing measures will remain in force in Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex until further notice, the CVO said.