Taipei, Sept. 4 (CNA) Taiwan is considering expanding its hand luggage checks to include arrival from all Asian countries, as the threat of African swine fever (ASF) has been showing no signs of abating, the Central Emergency Operation Center for ASF said Wednesday.
Currently, people entering Taiwan from Myanmar, China, Russia, Mongolia, Hong Kong, Macau, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, North Korea and South Korea are required to present their hand luggage for inspection at Customs.
However, in view of the number of passengers at this time of year carrying moon cakes that contain meat products, a plan is being considered to include arrivals from all Asian countries, the center said.
Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲), chief of the Council of Agriculture (COA) and head of the center, said that with the approach of the Mid-Autumn Festival in the region, five out of every 10 passengers arriving at Taiwan's main airport in Taoyuan are bringing in moon cakes.
Since the first ASF outbreak in China was reported in August 2018, there have been 159 reported cases there, 11 in Mongolia, 6,083 in Vietnam, 13 in Cambodia, 94 in Laos and 1 in North Korea, according to Chen.
Over the same period, 113 Chinese pork products confiscated at Taiwan customs have been found to contain the ASF virus, while 21 Vietnamese products tested positive for the virus, he said.
In August, the rate of detection of the ASF virus in pork products from China and Vietnam was 13.7 percent and 28.9 percent, respectively, Chen said.
Meanwhile, there are direct flights between Taiwan and 10 of the 12 countries/areas listed as high-risk for ASF, namely China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and South Korea, Russia and the Philippines, said Feng Hai-tung (馮海東), head of the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.
Arrivals from those countries and areas account for 60.4 percent of the total in Taiwan, Feng said.
As part of Taiwan's efforts to prevent the entry of ASF, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Animal Industry Foundation are carrying out inspections at small restaurants operated by immigrants from Southeast Asia to check whether they are bringing in pork products from high-risk countries or areas, according to Chen.
Visitors from ASF-affected and high risk countries and areas who attempt to bring pork products into Taiwan are subject to a fine of NT$200,000 (US$6,490) if they are first-time offenders, while repeat offenders face a fine of NT$1 million, according to the center.
Travelers bringing pork products into Taiwan from non-ASF-affected countries risk a fine of NT$30,000, the center said.
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.