The Diagnosis and Control Unit within the Plant Health Directorate is involved in the monitoring of the different plant pests and diseases which fall under Council Directive 2000/29/EC of 8 May 2000 (and its amendments), which deals with protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community as transposed by Legal Notice 97 of 2004 Plant Quarantine Act, 2001 (ACT No. XI of 2001) Plant Quarantine (Harmful Organisms) Regulations, 2004 and its amendments.
The Diagnosis and Control Unit in collaboration with the Surveillance and Inspectorate Unit carry out annual surveys in order to monitor the local situation with respect to the pests indicated in Council Directive 2000/29/EC as well as emerging pests. Surveys are performed to assess the sanitary conditions of the trees / plants through visual observation by making hands-on inspections to private or commercial orchards, open fields, gardens and greenhouses and also to nurseries and garden centres. During these inspections samples are collected for analysis in the relevant diagnostic laboratories for quarantine organisms. The Diagnosis and Control Unit also performs inspections reported by the general public when quarantine pests / harmful organisms are suspected.
Another role which falls within this unit is Pest Risk Analysis in order to determine the potential introduction of new pests and diseases within the Maltese Islands. This work involves the quantification of risks related to pathways for introduction, its potential for establishment and probability of introduction taking into account the host plant distribution, climate, strains, vector distribution and pest significance. Guidelines on emerging pests are then compiled and forwarded to the Surveillance and Inspectorate Unit as reference information for use in inspections.
The unit also compiles Standard Operating Procedures which are required as basic guidelines for the diagnosis of regulated quarantine diseases and verified to be in line with international diagnostic standards such as the EPPO standards.
Another major role of the Diagnosis and Control Unit is the drawing up of contingency plans. These are required to deal with the threats of the quarantine organism in a timely and efficient manner. Such plans are to be set up before risks are imminent. The unit also organises and monitors eradication procedures of infected trees / crops in designated areas were quarantine organisms are detected. Apart from eradication procedures, inspections and testing of samples within the demarcated zone should be performed. These contingency measures are set up in the contingency plan for the relevant organism.
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