AMID the growing concern about the impact of the foot-and-mouth crisis on those parts of the rural economy not directly related to the farming industry, there is a danger that priorities will get confused.

While it appears reasonable for the public to be encouraged back into the countryside unaffected by the outbreak, there remains scope for huge confusion about what the public might be permitted to do there.

Will people travel 50 miles or more into the countryside for a pub meal if they cannot do anything else, like go for a walk, when they are there? Probably not.

If the authorities decide certain footpaths can be opened, how will that be effectively communicated to the public and, more importantly, how will it be policed? The general public has shown a great sense of responsibility so far, but who can blame would-be walkers if it is not made clear where they can and cannot go?

The management of this is potential nightmare. Perhaps minds should best be concentrated on a safety-first attitude. Encouraging people to return to the countryside may assist tourism-related businesses in the short-term but may not be in the interests of the effective long-term control of the disease. It must be obvious which is most important.