The United States lifted the ban on imports of Hong Kong birds and bird products yesterday, while the Hong Kong government began to process applications to import chilled and frozen poultry from the mainland. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took Hong Kong off its banned list of Southeast Asian countries, saying public health measures taken in Hong Kong had been successful in keeping it free of avian influenza. It said Hong Kong did not have bird flu cases in domestic and wild bird populations apart from the dead peregrine falcon found to be H5-positive in mid-January. Hong Kong had also taken measures to suspend imports of live birds from countries affected by the outbreak, including the mainland, it added. The US ban on Hong Kong birds and bird products was imposed early last month in the wake of a series of outbreaks of bird flu across the region. Last month, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-kiong, wrote to the director of the CDC, Julie Gerberding, to lobby for the early lifting of the import ban, insisting that Hong Kong had imposed a vaccination, inspection and surveillance programme for poultry farms and live poultry markets. Dr Yeoh added that measures were also in place to prevent the spread of the virus through human traffic across the border. After banning the import of all bird meat since January 30, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department received 26 applications to import chilled and frozen poultry from mainland farms and slaughterhouses yesterday, including one from supermarket giant Wellcome. It will take two working days to approve the applications and the first batch of chilled and frozen poultry is expected to arrive on March 22. The mainland health authorities will have to seal the consignments and include information on the seal in the health certificate. Offal must be removed from all imported chilled and frozen poultry and will not be allowed to be imported during the initial period of resumption of importation. Poultry traders yesterday submitted a proposal to Deputy Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Eddy Chan Yuk-tak yesterday. Their suggestions included transporting live poultry in enclosed air-conditioned trucks to market stalls and installing glass walls at markets to separate chickens from buyers, thereby lowering the chance of direct contact and infection. The traders, most of whom remained on strike yesterday to protest against the government's ban on live poultry imports, said they hoped the government would resume live bird imports from the mainland soon.