Taiwan tightens border inspections against African swine fever

Warning signs are displayed on a baggage conveyor at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Jan. 14 (Source: CNA)

Warning signs are displayed on a baggage conveyor at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Jan. 14 (Source: CNA)

The government is leaving no stone unturned in preventing African swine fever from spreading to Taiwan, according to the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture Jan. 17.

Given the vast number of travelers expected during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, several strengthened border control measures have been put in place, the COA said. Effective immediately, passengers flying from China, Hong Kong and Macau will be informed of ASF prevention measures upon exiting the jet bridge and all of their carry-on luggage will be inspected at the arrival terminal.

Large warning signs have been set up at passport control counters to provide related information. Passengers from affected areas will also receive a special flyer reminding them to apply for a quarantine permit for any meat products or discard such items.

Checked luggage from high-risk areas will be transported on specific baggage conveyors and undergo tightened inspections, the COA said, adding that there are also enhanced patrols by detection dogs at airports.

These measures follow the establishment of a central emergency operations center Dec. 18, 2018, by the COA to oversee related government efforts, as well as the release of a short film to raise awareness of the consequences of smuggling meat products. Several drills have also been conducted nationwide to simulate tackling an outbreak of the virus.

First-time offenders illegally importing meat products from areas affected by ASF within the past three years will be fined NT$200,000 (US$6,483), with the penalty increasing to NT$1 million for repeat offenders. A total of 57 fines for first-time violations have been issued as of Jan. 16.

According to the COA, customs officials have intercepted 12 meat products contaminated by ASF since Oct. 31, 2018. Among these, 11 came from China and one from Macau.