An emergency meeting involving the AENA airport authority, the Guardia Civil and the Health Ministry was called yesterday morning and at 1.30pm, the anti-foot-and-mouth operation swung into action at Palma, Ibiza and Minorca airports. The first of the 2'000 British tourists expected yesterday, all of whom have to be disinfected until March 9 at the earliest and hand over any fresh meat or dairy products, arrived 90 minutes late. But they were in good spirits, despite being held up on arrival at passport control, because the disinfected red carpet was not “wet enough.” They then had to wait again for the Guardia Civil,sporting white surgical gloves, who were unsure of the correct procedure. National Police, airport security and cleaning staff looked on as the Guardia Civil searched every piece of hand luggage and removed a number of perishable and fresh goods which were disposed of in special containers. The special containers, lined with sweet smelling scented bin bags were then taken to Son Reus, on the outskirts of Palma, to be incinerated in order to avoid any risk of contamination. Other containers had been strategically placed in the arrival hall, and had been billed with signs in English and Spanish, advising all travellers from the UK to “put all perishable goods in this container.” Following the hand luggage check, passengers than had to collect their luggage from the customs area, where the Guardia Civil are supposed to then carry out a second check on all luggage. However, yesterday morning as it was the first flight with the authorities not 100 per cent sure what they should be doing, not all of the luggage was checked. The inspector for the Agriculture Ministry, Antonia Garcia, said that as the day went on, the system would be perfected and all luggage will be checked. Garcia said that all the precautions appear to be in place and, despite the speed at which the operation was organised, should serve to prevent foot-and-mouth from infecting the Balearics. An airport authority vet, Gabriel Riera, was also on hand to oversee proceedings. “The risk of foot-and-mouth entering the Balearics is very low because of all the precautions being carried out in the UK,” he said. It took about an hour for the 30-metre long red carpet, which leads up to passport control, to be disinfected and then, when the Agriculture Ministry inspector arrived, he said that more disinfectant had to be put down. Airport sources explained that any waste taken off flights from the UK will be taken immediately and separately to Son Reus for incineration and that cleaning staff, on boarding planes, will disinfect the aircraft and cabin crew. The airport authority also decided that a fleet of airport buses was to be set aside to solely transfer British passengers from their planes to the terminal. It was also revealed yesterday that the food controls are not new, the airport introduced similar checks for flights and passengers from North Africa two years ago. But walking the disinfected red carpet is new and most of the cabbies and coach drivers at the airport yesterday thought it was amusingly because of mad cow.


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