THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The Netherlands will from Wednesday no longer require commercial poultry farmers to keep their birds confined indoors as the risk of bird flu has eased, the agriculture minister said.

The measures to keep the birds indoors were taken on Feb. 12 after an outbreak in neighbouring Germany of the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu virus.

In a letter to parliament on Tuesday Carola Schouten, minister of agriculture, nature and food quality, said that the danger of infected wild birds spreading the disease to Dutch commercial poultry farms was lower than in February because there are fewer migratory birds at the moment.

A series of outbreaks of the disease, which in the past has led to major disruptions and slaughtering programmes in Europe’s poultry industry, have been reported in Europe in recent months.

Bird flu cases have appeared in Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic since the end of last year.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Susan Fenton)