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Taiwan to expand hand luggage checks to arrivals from Philippines

2019-08-19  English News
Taipei, Aug. 18 (CNA) Passengers arriving at the Taoyuan airport from the Philippines will be subject to hand luggage checks starting Monday, as a precautionary measure against African swine fever (ASF), Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Center for ASF said Sunday.

The decision will take effect midnight Sunday, the center announced in a press release, saying it had received "reliable information" pertaining to recent outbreaks of ASF in Bulacan and Rizal provinces in the Philippines.

The center did not elaborate on the source of its information but said it had decided to begin searches on the hand luggage of travelers from the Philippines at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport as a precaution against ASF, although there have been no reports of such outbreaks from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the global body in charge of ASF prevention.

Except Taoyuan, other airports in Taiwan are already checking all international passengers' hand luggage upon their arrivals.

As the nation's largest airport, currently, Taiwan's regulations only stipulate that all passengers from countries and areas where there are ASF outbreaks and with high risk of such outbreaks must present their hand luggage for inspection at Taoyuan airport customs.

Prior to the addition of the Philippines, the countries and areas listed were China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, North Korea, South Korea, and Russia, according to the center.

Visitors from ASF-affected and high risk countries/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, the center said.

Travelers bringing pork products into Taiwan from non-ASF-affected countries risk a fine of NT$30,000, according to the center.

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