THEY were two viruses that caused absolute disruption to the way of life in the countryside.

One resulted in the slaughtering of millions of animals, whilst the other killed thousands of people and left us cut off from our loved ones to keep each other safe.

But the responses to the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 and the coronavirus pandemic 20 years later were very similar. If anything, many lessons had been learnt from the devastation of the first years of the new millennium, when many parts of the country were put on high alert.

As foot and mouth spread rapidly from farm-to-farm parts of the countryside were ‘locked down’ which was unheard of.

People were advised to stay away from rural areas, farmers were isolated on their own farms, and sterilisation kits were issued to some farms.

For non-farming residents of the countryside, parks and walking paths were shut, children couldn’t go out to play sport in the fields, and agriculture shows were cancelled.

Sound similar to our current way of living? For farmers across the North-East and North Yorkshire, we’ve certainly been here before.

Anita Atkinson who lives on a farm at Harperley said: “We got food delivered to our house which seems normal now but back then it wasn’t.

“There was disinfectant on the roads and as you entered people’s farms, and property.

“Public spaces like parks were shut, a lot of residents at the time didn’t understand how deadly this could be for farmers.

“There was a huge protest at Tow Law about the burial of cows near a water supply. People got arrested and generations both young and old chained themselves to things and lay in front of the trucks.

“In terms of schooling, a lot of kids missed out, many farmers didn’t send their kids to school and there was little home learning.

“Those who did go to school could not do any outdoor activities or play out for fear of spreading it.”

Although the problems that needed overcoming were similar, advances to technology and changes in society meant the respond in 2001 was very different to what it is today.

With the concept of home deliveries being alien back in 2001, it has been a lifeline to so many over the last 12 months.

Children in 2001 who could not go to school had to be home schooled or received little schooling at all. There was no Zoom or Microsoft Teams or virtual learning packs.

Social media was also in its very early days, meaning there was little communication between others. Landline phone calls and basic email were the main form of communication, leaving farmers feeling especially isolated. No FaceTime or Zoom quizzes.

Hill farmer from Killhope, Gregg Dalton said: “There are parallels between Covid and Foot and mouth. There was a lot of isolation in those dark days but it probably made it easier to control the virus but it made a lot of aspects of the job difficult.

Stephen Suddes a farmer from Tow Law said: “It’s a lot like Covid really just on a smaller scale and affecting cattle. Although Covid has had an economic impact we haven’t lost everything like we did in foot and mouth and we haven’t had to rethink our livelihoods.

“Between a Covid and foot and mouth, I know which ones farmers would rather have.”