An exercise to test contingency plans for an outbreak of foot and mouth disease is being planned in Wales during April.

Welsh Government officials and veterinary experts will work in partnership with counterparts in the devolved administrations, Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on a real-time simulation of an outbreak, called Exercise Blackthorn.

The simulation exercise will see a series of desk based exercises, known as 'tabletops', taking place over the next few months and a two day live exercise will take place on April 25 and 26.

Exercise Blackthorn will stimulate a medium to large scale outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has spread from England to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as within England.

Chief veterinary officer Christianne Glossop said: “Having effective contingency plans are crucial to containing and managing the spread of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It is also a requirement of the European Union.

“The effectiveness of our plans must be fully tested so we can establish our current state of readiness for such an outbreak. Exercise Blackthorn will present an opportunity to identify any issues and improvements in the policies, plans, instructions and procedures we employ in managing an outbreak of the disease.”

Two tabletop exercises will take place before the live exercise. These will simulate the meetings that take place at suspicion and at the very early stages of an FMD outbreak. The outputs from the tabletops will then be taken forward into the live exercise.

A third tabletop will take place after the live exercise to test the recovery procedures during the latter stages of an outbreak.

The live exercise will take place over two days on the 25th and 26th April 2018. Farmers and landowners will not be playing in the exercise, with injects used to simulate customer involvement.