Taiwan expands hand luggage checks to arrivals from Russia

Taipei, Passengers arriving at Taiwan airports and seaports from Russia are now subject to hand luggage checks, as part of the government's efforts to prevent the entry of African swine fever (ASF), the Council of Agriculture (COA) said Wednesday.

The measure was put in place July 19, following the resumption in May of direct flights between Taiwan and Russia, a country with an ASF epidemic, Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung said at a news conference.

Currently, Taiwan's regulations stipulate that all passengers from countries and areas where there are ASF outbreaks must present their hand luggage for inspection at Customs.

Prior to the addition of Russia, the countries and areas listed were China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, North Korea and South Korea, according to the Cabinet's Central Emergency Operation Center for ASF.

Visitors from ASF-affected countries who attempt to bring pork products into Taiwan will be fined NT$200,000 (US$6,490) if they are first-time offenders, while repeat offenders will face a fine of NT$1 million, the center said.

Travelers bringing pork products into Taiwan from non-ASF-affected countries will be fined NT$30,000, according to the emergency center.

Since the first ASF outbreak in China was reported in August 2018, Taiwan has intensified border inspections of meat products.

Since last August, 1,958 pork products confiscated at Taiwan ports of entry have been checked for ASF, with 88 testing positive -- 82 from China and six from Vietnam, COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng said, citing statistics from the emergency center.

As of July, 18.8 percent of the products that had tested positive for ASF were from China, he said.

The ASF outbreak in China has shown no signs of abating, and experts believe it might have entered a second phase, Huang said.

Taiwan has been on high alert against ASF, worrying that the virus would cripple its high value pig farming industry.

ASF is a deadly disease that threatens pig populations as it cannot be cured and there is no vaccine against it. However, it is not harmful to humans.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel