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FMD threat: Australians returning from Indonesia ‘should isolate in urban areas’

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
Lake Grace farmer and cattle producer Noel Bairstow, pictured, wants Australians returning from Bali to isolate for two days before returning to the regions..
Camera IconLake Grace farmer and cattle producer Noel Bairstow, pictured, wants Australians returning from Bali to isolate for two days before returning to the regions.. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

One of WA’s most prominent cattle producers is calling on Australians returning from Indonesia to undergo a two-day isolation period in the city in a bid to keep foot-and-mouth disease out of the regions.

Lake Grace farmer Noel Bairstow said self-imposed isolation, coupled with airport quarantine measures, would function as a “double check” against the devastating livestock disease running rampant across South-East Asia.

“By stopping in that inner hub, there’s no contact with (livestock) animals,” he said.

“So you leave quarantine, you pick your bags up and go from there to where you’re going to stay for two days.”

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Under Mr Bairstow’s proposal, regional Australians who had second homes in the city could stay there while others would have to shell out for accommodation.

“I think they (regional Australians) will be prepared to do that, just to help out with this bad period we’re going through,” he said.

“When you’re planning a holiday, say for a week, an extra two days is nothing in the scheme of things and people can plan around that really easily.”

Instead of mandatory foot baths — a move Federal authorities have ruled out — Mr Bairstow said people could thoroughly clean their shoes and clothing during isolation.

He also suggested contact tracing for returning travellers, similar to that required of hospitality patrons and shoppers during the height of COVID-19 outbreaks.

This could include follow-up phone calls and even visits from biosecurity officers.

Mr Bairstow said everyone in Australia’s agriculture sector was taking the FMD threat “very seriously”, adding that a stronger government education campaign including TV advertisements would be welcome.

“A lot a lot of people are very worried,” he said.

“It was devastating in the British isles and it wouldn’t be any different here, so I can’t see much light (at the end of the tunnel) if we get it here.

“But prevention is always better than a cure, so let’s do the hard yards now and hopefully we can keep it out — that would be the best outcome for everybody.”

Having farmed for nearly 50-years, Mr Bairstow — who has one of WA’s biggest Angus herds and is WAFarmers Grains Council vice-president — said Australia’s agricultural industries had never faced a threat as great as FMD.

“We’ve had some issues, but nothing like what we’re facing,” he said.

“This will take hold of every primary industry that we’ve got — it’ll get a bloody handle on all of them.”

While some industry players have called for a Bali travel ban, Queensland Senator Susan McDonald has gone a step further, saying the Federal Government should impose a COVID-like border closure between Bali and Australia.

“We saw a swift closing of borders with COVID and I believe similar measures should be discussed for FMD,” Ms McDonald told Travel Weekly.

“If not flight suspensions, then quarantine for returning passengers.

“The devastation of an FMD outbreak in Australia would be widespread to not just producers but consumers and taxpayers as well.”

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