Taiwan tightens hand luggage checks at airports amid ASF fears

Taipei, The hand luggage of arriving passengers from China, Hong Kong and Macau are now subject to more stringent checks at Taiwan airports in a bid to prevent the entry of the African swine fever (ASF) virus, airport police said on Wednesday.

In line with a Cabinet directive, the hand luggage of passengers from the three areas will be thoroughly examined at Customs as the government steps up its efforts against ASF, M.K. Huang vice-captain of the security team of the Aviation Police Bureau told CNA.

Currently, the number of flights into Taiwan from China, Hong Kong and Macau average 112 per day.

The Cabinet directive was issued when Premier Su Tseng-chang went on an inspection tour of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Monday to check on the ASF preventative measures there amid reports that the disease has spread to 24 areas, cities and provinces in China.

As part of Taiwan's efforts to prevent the entry of the ASF virus, Kaohsiung International Airport has installed an additional four luggage X-ray machines and employed more sniffer dogs in anticipation of an expected influx of travelers ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

On Tuesday, during a random check at the Taoyuan airport, a passenger was found to be carrying pork meat balls in his hand luggage and was fined NT$200,000 (US$6,500).

Last December, the fines were increased for people bringing in pork products as the government stepped up measures to prevent ASF from spreading to Taiwan, which has a huge pork industry.

With the tougher penalties, first time offenders face a fine of NT$200,000, while repeat offenders risk a fine of NT$1 million, for bringing in pork products from ASF-affected countries and areas.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel