Biosecurity foot mats removed from airports as Indonesia’s foot and mouth disease outbreak ‘stabilises’

The federal government has removed sanitation foot mats from international airports and cruise terminals.

The foot mats were installed in 2022 following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Indonesia, with travellers returning home required to step through the mats to kill off any potential spread.

But according to the government, FMD case numbers have now “stabilised in Indonesia”, and while a number of “heightened biosecurity protection measures” are still in place the foot mats this week are gone.

“The FMD situation in Indonesia has stablised and we’re only seeing approximately 25 cases per day compared to over 12,000 cases per day at its peak,” said Dr Brant Smith, the head of animal biosecurity in the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

“The foot mats were particularly important at a time of heightened risk … but when it’s in low levels like we’re seeing at the moment we’ve made a risk-based decision that we can remove those from airports and [other] ports of entry.”

An adult and child walk over a mat designed to kill foot and mouth disease at Perth Airport.

Sanitation mats were installed in 2022 during an FMD outbreak in Indonesia.(Supplied: Perth Airport)

Deputy secretary of biosecurity, operations and compliance Justine Saunders said the department would continue to closely monitor the FMD situation, and while some measures like sanitation foot mats would no longer be used, other biosecurity measures will be kept for all returning flights.

“Those measures include extra dogs trained to detect biosecurity risks, screening with 2D X-ray capability and trials with enhanced 3D X-rays, real-time risk assessment by Australian biosecurity officers at the border, targeted communication, and increased signage,” she said.

It has been estimated that a FMD outbreak in Australia would potentially cost the economy more than $80 billion.

‘Disappointing’, say peak bodies

The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association said it did not support the decision to remove biosecurity foot mats.

“It’s a disappointing decision that’s been made without industry consultation, that joins a litany of disappointing decisions made without industry consultation made by the federal government this year,” chief executive Will Evans said.

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