Cypriots are bracing for bird flu

The Cypriot government yesterday boosted measures against bird flu, after the European Union confirmed that two birds found in the island’s Turkish-held north had died of the fatal strain of the virus, but it stressed that there was no danger in southern Cyprus. Authorities have set up an «observation zone» close to where the virus was discovered and have intensified inspections to prevent any suspect poultry from crossing the divide into the Republic of Cyprus, the state veterinary service said. Official permission will now be necessary for the transport of poultry to and from certain villages on either side of the buffer zone. Also, hunting in the area and fishing at the Achna Dam – in southern Cyprus – has been banned for at least a month. «The implementation of preventive measures and inspections is ongoing in all areas bordering occupied territory… and in full cooperation with European Union experts,» Cypriot government spokesman Giorgos Lillikas said yesterday. However, he added, «There is no need for panic or even for serious concern.» Two EU experts arrived in Cyprus yesterday to assess the situation on both sides of the island. Meanwhile, Cypriot Agriculture Minister Timis Efthymiou criticized Turkish-Cypriot officials for delaying the dispatch of samples from the two sick birds discovered in the Turkish-occupied north to a British laboratory for testing. According to Nicosia, samples were sent to Turkey a week after Jan. 12, when the sick birds died, and a week after that were sent to a British lab. Turkish-Cypriot authorities countered that they were only informed Sunday that the birds had contracted the deadly H5N1 virus and stressed they had intensified restrictions on the transport of poultry.

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