Taiwan premier names African swine fever as priority for 2019

African swine fever potentially more destructive than foot-and-mouth disease

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Premier William Lai at his year-end news conference Friday.

Premier William Lai at his year-end news conference Friday. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - At his year-end news conference, Premier William Lai (賴清德) identified African swine fever and the economy as the government’s priorities for 2019.

Taiwan has been on high alert as the contagion has been spreading around China, with almost daily occurrences of travelers trying to smuggle pork and other banned meat products into the island despite rising fines and more thorough inspections.

Lai reminded the public that when foot-and-mouth disease reached Taiwan’s shores in 1997, more than 4 million hogs had to be culled, costing the economy NT$170 billion (US$5.5 billion), the Central News Agency reported.

Yet, today, the threat from African swine fever was even more serious, making the disease the government’s top priority in the coming year, the premier said.

If the fever broke out, there would be no antidote, no drugs that could counteract its spread, with 100 percent of infected animals likely to die, Lai warned, calling on the public not to buy meat products from affected areas.

As to the economy, the premier said the government would continue to encourage equal pay for men and women, closing the wealth gap between rich and poor and boost local investment, including attracting Taiwanese businesses to return home to invest, CNA reported.

Premier Lai did not speculate about media reports that he would leave office in mid-January once the new central government budget was passed.