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international news _ 9th March, 2006 _ JONTY SKRUFFF

Global Gathering/ Hi-fi Chief Shoots Down Bird Flu Fears

Text by Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)

A new Whitehall report on contingency plans for if and when bird flu infects humans has revealed that authorities are considering 'postponing large scale gatherings' to reduce 'social mixing' 'particularly those with participants travelling from overseas'.

However, UK festival boss James Algate, who's organising three massive outdoor events this summer (Global Gathering plus two Hi-Fi Festivals), told Skrufff this week he's entirely unconvinced about the likelihood of a flu pandemic ruining his events.

"To be honest we haven't even discussed bird flu," said James.

"I really don't think we need to be alarmed or scare-mongered into thinking that everything is going to come tumbling down around our world again. Last year it was the threat of terrorists and this year it's a few sick birds."

James' comments emerged as the UK government's chief scientific adviser Professor King told the BBC he believes a bird flu epidemic is virtually inevitable though he predicted less disruptive than the foot and mouth outbreak, which affected a number of outdoor festivals in 2001.

"We also have to anticipate that it will be here for five years plus," the Professor cautioned, however, "We are talking about the possibility of this disease being endemic here in the UK."

The Independent newspaper analysed the government's contingency plans and concluded "rock concerts, football matches, even classical music festivals would be cancelled to prevent mass infection," again drawing a sharp retort from James.

"That's scaremongering," he declared.

"This so-called disease has so far passed through many different countries and they have not cancelled any events like this. Why is it we all like to panic and think the worst in the UK. We should be looking forward to a jam packed summer festival calendar and getting excited about being outdoors again after a cold few months, rather than wasting time talking about a few sick pigeons," he said.

http://www.bird-flu-influenza.com/birdflu-what-could-happen.htm (Bird flu survival guide: 'It would be realistic to allow for panic buying and hoarding of food and other essential supplies. This would empty supermarket shelves and create food shortages. Power blackouts may be common and may take longer to restore. Fuel supplies could be rationed. Shopping malls, work places and schools may be closed in an effect to prevent the spread of a pandemic. Law and order may also break down in some areas . . .')

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