Government scientists are investigating a suspected new outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease outside the 10km zone around the original cases.

Late last night, Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds confirmed her staff had set up a control zone around the premises at the centre of the new scare, while clinical tests take place. The premises, in Surrey, have had a 3km zone set up around them.

In a statement released at midnight, Ms Reynolds said: “This is a developing disease situation. The containment and eradication of FMD [foot-and-mouth disease] remains our priority. This is why we have moved swiftly to put in place a temporary control zone while we investigate this development. At this stage disease has not been confirmed, laboratory results will follow.

“In the meantime, as I have done from the start of this outbreak, I reiterate my message to animal keepers to practice the highest standards of biosecurity, remain vigilant for disease and report any suspicions quickly.”

The centre of the control zone is near the village of Wotton, west of Dorking. The zone takes in part of the North Downs Way. If the case is confirmed, it will be the first outside the immediate zone imposed when the first cases were declared and will be seen as a severe blow to the containment regime set up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Wotton lies about 18km (11 miles) away from the Surrey village of Normandy, where the original cases of the disease were discovered.

Earlier yesterday, Defra relaxed the animal movement ban to permit livestock outside the existing protection zones to be taken to abattoirs for slaughter and to allow the removal of dead animals from farms.

The Government department also announced that animals within the 3km and 10km zones can be buried on the farms on which they die, from today. In addition, farmers throughout the country will be allowed to graze their animals on set-aside land while general animal movement restrictions continue.

Defra has stated throughout the latest foot-and-mouth disease crisis that there will be no country-wide closing of footpaths and access areas, though rights-of-way in the 3km protection zones set up around infected farms.