Tue, Dec 18, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Swine flu center to open, fines rise

LANGUAGE ISSUE?A COA official said that despite data showing mostly Taiwanese had been fined, many of them were Vietnamese or Chinese with ROC passports

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng at a news conference in Taipei yesterday holds a board showing fines for illegally importing pork products from African swine fever-affected areas.

Photo: CNA

A central emergency operation center to oversee efforts to prevent African swine fever contagion is to open today, while fines for people caught illegally importing pork products from virus-affected areas have been increased, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday.

As most Chinese provinces have reported cases and illegal imports of Chinese meat products continue to be intercepted by customs agents, the government will step up prevention measures, the council said.

Premier William Lai (賴清德) and other officials are to attend the center’s first meeting today, COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城) said.

Lai would also attend a nationwide drill simulating an outbreak, which was originally scheduled for Friday, but was postponed to Wednesday next week, Huang said.

On Friday, fines for people caught illegally importing meat products from any area increased from between NT$3,000 and NT$15,000 (US$97 and US$486) to between NT$10,000 and NT$1 million.

However, those found importing pork products from virus-affected areas face a fine of NT$50,000 for the first violation, NT$500,000 for the second and NT$1 million thereafter, Huang said.

Despite the higher fines, officials had intercepted 41 illegal meat imports since Friday, of which 15 were pork products from China or other affected areas, which prompted the council to revise the fines, Huang said.

From today, people face a fine of NT$200,000 for the first instance of illegal imports from affected areas and NT$1 million for subsequent breaches, Huang said.

While the council has said its data showed that most of those caught illegally importing meat products were Taiwanese, many of them were Chinese or Vietnamese spouses of Taiwanese traveling on Republic of China (ROC) passports, Huang said.

The council would ask airlines to increase inflight broadcasts of its policies in Vietnamese and boost policy promotion among local associations, he said.

Meanwhile, netizens have reported receiving pork products as “gifts” with online purchases in parcels delivered from China without being told that they would be included, Huang said.

People who receive such items must contact their local animal quarantine bureau to have them properly disposed of, not dump the products themselves, Huang said.

There is no penalty for failing to report such items, he said.

The council is working on ways to detect meat products in parcels at customs, he said.

If pork products carrying the virus are consumed by pigs, it could ruin the nation’s hog industry, the council has said.

It could take decades for the industry to recover, as there is no vaccine for the fatal disease, it has said.

Separately yesterday, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) accused China of mismanaging the outbreak.

China’s failure to bring the disease under control could deal a heavy blow to Taiwan’s hog industry, Chen said.

“The epidemic is a very serious matter,” he said, adding that Beijing has lost control of the situation.

“China has mismanaged the situation, which has forced Taiwan to step up management and inspection,” he said at a meeting of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.

The MAC has asked Beijing three times to hold bilateral talks on measures to combat the disease, including banning e-commerce platforms from selling foreign pork products, with the latest request issued on Dec. 14, Chen said.

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