Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vaccine Plan Delayed by 'Signs of Progress'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vaccine Plan Delayed by 'Signs of Progress'

Article excerpt

Byline: NIGEL ROSSER;PATRICK HENNESSY

MINISTERS are to put off a decision until Monday on whether to begin mass vaccinations of livestock amid the first tentative signs of progress in dealing with the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Cumbria - the worst affected area.

Downing Street revealed that Agriculture Minister Nick Brown was spending today discussing how best to move forward with scientists and key officials.

Earlier, Government sources had warned that a decision on vaccination would have to be taken by tomorrow morning. This has now slipped back amid what a Downing Street spokesman described as "signs of progress - I would not put it any stronger than that".

The spokesman said there had been 14 new cases reported in Cumbria yesterday - fewer than in previous days - but he stressed the need not to read too much into one day's figures.

There was evidence that the huge "logistical operation" put into place in the country was beginning to make progress in the crucial drive to slaughter all infected and immediately at risk animals. If this was achieved right across Cumbria, there might be no need to start vaccinating at all.

But Prime Minister Tony Blair travelled to Cumbria today to persuade farmers to accept the possibility of mass vaccination, and to try to get the epidemic under control.

With the crisis continuing, the Government has taken out full-page newspaper adverts urging people not to shun the countryside, and Mr Blair has gone on US television appealing to Americans not to stay away from Britain.

The Prime Minister is taking an increasingly influential role in fighting the epidemic.

At the same time, he has to decide whether to call a general election for Labour's long-planned date of 3 May or hold off for another month.

Pressure for a delay came today from the Church of England. …

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