Foot-and-mouth and F1

BRISTISH PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair says that despite the disastrous outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that the country is not "out of bounds" to visitors and that business is going on despite the problems. The number of cases of foot-and-mouth has now risen to around 700 and over 420,000 animals have been destroyed. Large areas of the countryside are closed off in an effort to stop the disease spreading. As tourists are making their plans for the summer ahead the British tourist industry is suffering badly.

Blair is trying to tell the world that "Britain is open for business" but the tourism trade is already losing more than $100m a week and that will rise dramatically in the summer. Sport has been badly affected by the disease and there are still fears that the British Grand Prix might have to be cancelled - or run without spectators - if the situation does not improve.

And with the number of cases of foot-and-mouth increasing with each passing week, the likelihood of that happening is slim. If the idea that the British GP might be cancelled seems to be rather radical one should perhaps remember that in 1967 the RAC Rally was cancelled during the last outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Britain. That outbreak began in October 1967 and resulted in the slaughter of 440,000 animals. This outbreak is clearly going to be much worse than was the case in the 1960s.

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