Australian airports will roll out sanitation mats to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease following an outbreak in Bali.
Minister for Agriculture, Senator Murray Watt announced the move on Wednesday as part of the Albanese Government’s plan to protect Aussie livestock through stronger biosecurity measures.
The mats will begin to appear in international terminals this week, starting in Darwin and Cairns.
Travellers arriving in Australia from Indonesia will be asked to walk across the mats, which contain a citric acid solution, to sanitise the soles of their shoes.
Those arriving from Indonesia will still be asked to declare their contact with farms and livestock, and those with visibly contaminated shoes will continue to be taken to the biosecurity area.
“I directed my department to look at what could be done around footwear to complement the other measures in place and after careful consideration, we have decided to deploy sanitation foot mats in Australia’s international airports,” Watt said.
“The fact is, there is no biosecurity silver bullet – our biosecurity controls rely on a multi-layered approach to mitigate the risk of FMD.
“These sanitation mats will be a physical reminder to passengers to do the right thing to limit any spread of FMD, and will be used in conjunction with our current measures, such as passenger declaration, 100 per cent profiling of all passengers entering from Indonesia, real-time risk assessments, questioning and shoe cleaning.
“We still encourage Australians to clean their shoes and clothing, and even leave their footwear overseas if they can.”
Last week, Queensland senator Susan McDonald urged the government to suspend flights from Bali to avoid an agricultural crisis of “biblical proportions”, joining a growing number of politicians and representatives of the farming community voicing concerns over the outbreak.
The federal government increased biosecurity measures for flights from Indonesia earlier this month to make sure travellers did not unwittingly bring the disease into Australia.
While FMD does not pose a risk to human health, it can be passed onto livestock from clothing or footwear and cause painful blisters in cattle, sheep, pigs and goats.
An outbreak could lead to a mass slaughter of livestock to eradicate the highly infectious disease, potentially costing Australia $80 billion.
The Bali Hotels Association (BHA) has advised its members to inform guests of the increased biosecurity measures and encourage them to leave their shoes or clothing that may have been contaminated at their accommodation.
Member hotels will have any clothing or shoes left behind cleaned and donated to communities in need through BHA’s CSR program.
Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation has also come up with a novel solution, offering travellers discounts if they bin their shoes.
President of the National Farmers’ Federation, Fiona Simson said there has never been a “greater act of national service” than throwing your thongs in the bin.
“Foot and Mouth Disease loves to hitchhike on shoes. That means your dirty old holiday pluggers could be the thing that brings this disaster to our shores. Don’t risk it!” she said.
“I never thought we’d be helping people buy new shoes to keep my cattle safe, but here we are.”
Featured image: Bali International Airport (iStock/Rajaraman Arumugam)