Australia to spend $14 million on foot-and-mouth disease prevention

Australia is desperate to stop the deadly and highly contagious virus found in Indonesia from entering the country.

Australia will spend an additional $14 million to bolster its defenses against a disease that could devastate the agricultural industry.

The federal government will spend money on biosecurity measures to help manage an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Indonesia amid fears it could spread to Australia.

A large-scale localized outbreak of a highly contagious virus that infects artiodactyl animals, including cattle and sheep, could wipe out the country’s livestock and cost the country $80 billion over ten years.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said Australia’s borders would remain open to Indonesia for the time being, announcing a new funding package on Friday.

Speaking to Sydney Airport on his return from talks with officials in Indonesia, he said $5 million of the new $14 million package would go to immediate support for the archipelago nation, as well as Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.

This will go towards strengthening laboratory capacity, diagnostic testing, epidemiological modeling and disease control efforts in the field, Senator Watt said.

He said the funding would also help those countries fight the outbreak of lumpy skin disease affecting cattle and stop its spread in Australia.

The federal government will spend $9 million on homeland defence, including hiring 18 additional biosecurity officers at Australian airports and mail centers and new detector dogs at Cairns and Darwin airports.

Senator Watt said travelers returning from Indonesia, including holidaymakers from the tourist island of Bali, are paying “a lot of attention.”

But Senator Watt ruled out the travel ban again and said the “highest risk” came from imported animal products, meat and dairy products.

The Federal Government will also appoint a Northern Australia Coordinator to manage the urgent implementation of surveillance and preparedness strategies in North Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

The government has already pledged to help Indonesia with FMD vaccines and put in place screening processes for passengers and baggage entering the country from Indonesia.

The federal opposition has criticized the Albanian government for acting too slowly to prevent foot-and-mouth disease from spreading to Australia after the first case was reported in Indonesia in May.

The virus has spread to 22 of Indonesia’s 37 provinces, with more than 360,000 cases reported, affecting mainly cows, but also sheep, pigs and buffaloes.

Originally published as Australia to spend another $14 million to prevent spread of deadly livestock virus