Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) Taiwan will prohibit the importation of live pigs and pork products from Italy, starting Thursday, and incoming travelers who violate the new regulations will be fined NT$200,000 (US$6,630), Taiwan's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) announced Wednesday.
"After conducting a rolling assessment of the international outbreak of African swine fever (ASF), the BAPHIQ has concluded that the ASF epidemic on the Italian island of Sardinia is escalating, and the BAPHIQ has decided to remove Italy from its list of ASF-free countries," the bureau said in a statement.
In addition to banning the import of live pigs and pork products from Italy, the bureau has also prohibited visitors from bringing in undeclared Italian pork products.
Travelers will be fined NT$200,000 for a first offense, and NT$1 million for a second offense, according to the bureau.
The ban came as a surprise as Italy had not been on the World Organization for Animal Health's (OIE) list of countries and territories with new or ongoing ASF outbreaks over the past two months.
The BAPHIQ said, however, that OIE statistics showed Sardinia reported 45 cases of ASF in 2017, 90 cases in 2018 and 27 cases in the first half of 2019.
"This indicates that the risk of the disease is spreading to mainland Italy," the BAPHIQ said, but it did not explain why it was only now issuing the ban.
The announcement came less than a month after the Italian government on Feb. 2 suspended all flights from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan until April 28, citing efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December.
Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) has expressed regret over the Italian government's decision, saying it was based on "inaccurate information" from the World Health Organization (WHO), which includes Taiwan in the list of provinces, regions and cities in China with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Taiwan has since summoned the Italian representative to Taipei Davide Giglio to explain the flight ban.