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Australian government supports public inquiry into equine flu outbreak

Australian government supports public inquiry into equine flu outbreak

The Australian government would consider a public inquiry into the equine influenza epidemic which has ravaged it's racing industry if investigations show the disease emanated from its own quarantine facility, agriculture minister Peter McGauran said Saturday.
The federal government has been under pressure to order a public inquiry to determine how the disease, which has swept through horses in New South Wales and Queensland states, beat biosecurity checks and spread into the general horse population.
Hundreds of horses in Queensland and New South Wales states have become infected and the horse racing industries in both states have closed down indefinitely as efforts are made to contain the disease.
McGauran said the government had 19 investigators working to determine whether there had been a breach of biosecurity at the Eastern Creek quarantine center at which the disease was first identified.
"It is true to assume it is perfectly logical to think there has been a breach of quarantine," McGauran said.
"What we don't know is where or how or by whom. It was a breach of quarantine in all likelihood. It may have been human error or deficiencies in the standards of quarantine. Our inquiry is looking at both.
"We have 19 investigators, a number of them former police officers, on the investigation.
"Whether or not the public interest will be served by having a public inquiry is something we will consider."
McGauran met New South Wales racing officials Saturday to discuss a wage subsidy scheme for workers affected by the outbreak. As many as 50,000 workers in the state earn theirs livings through the racing industry.
"We will examine the particular need for a wage subsidy scheme such as the government employed after Cyclone Larry," Mr McGauran said.
"There are analogies with the Cyclone Larry situation which saw the banana industry out of action for some eight months but always with the certainty the industry would restart."
The first case of equine influenza in Australia was detected on Aug. 23 in a stallion, imported from the northern hemisphere and confined at the Eastern Creek quarantine station near Sydney. A day later, several cases were confirmed at an equestrian center at Sydney's Centennial Park.
The disease has since spread to thoroughbred racehorses at Sydney's Randwick racecourse, to other properties and facilities throughout the state and to Queensland. Racing resumed Saturday in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia _ states which are unaffected by the disease.


Updated : 2021-08-02 21:48 GMT+08:00