Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport customs officers yesterday expanded inspections of carry-on luggage for passengers from China, Macau and Hong Kong — which are at high risk for African swine fever — but a lack of personnel and X-ray machines resulted in long lines of arriving passengers.
The Customs Administration began more thorough luggage inspections on a trial basis for travelers from areas affected by African swine fever to comply with an order given by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) after he took office on Monday requiring all carry-on luggage from those areas to be manually checked.
The Aviation Police Bureau said it was instructed to assist in the quarantine efforts, adding that it would coordinate with other agencies in inspecting carry-on luggage at boarding gates.
Photo: Tony Yao, Taipei Times
With more than 100 flights daily from Hong Kong, Macau and China, the bureau said it has requested additional personnel from the National Police Agency.
Minister of the Interior Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) yesterday visited the airport to oversee inspections and assisted inspectors by asking tourists to take any meat products out of their carry-on luggage and dispose of them in trash containers.
The inspections are in a trial phase, Hsu said, adding that the government would acquire X-ray machines as soon as possible to facilitate the inspections.
Photo: Tony Yao, Taipei Times
However, before that happens, inspectors would need to manually check the luggage, he added.
The first flight to undergo the trial inspections yesterday morning was an EVA Air (長榮航空) flight carrying 136 passengers from Hong Kong.
Inspectors found a package of sausages carried by a Russian visitor, which they disposed of.
Despite the lines, no arriving passengers were upset by the measure, Hsu said, adding that he found that the average wait time per passenger was about seven minutes.
A seven-minute wait is worthwhile if it keeps the nation from being devastated by African swine fever, he added.
Hsu tried to appease some police who complained that the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine had not sent enough personnel to help with the inspections, saying that the government would quickly acquire X-ray machines to lessen the workload.
Customs officers estimated that the airport would need 10 additional X-ray machines to inspect carry-on luggage from high-risk areas, costing NT$2 million to NT$2.5 million (US$64,870 to US$81,087) each.
Meanwhile, customs would need an additional 130 to 150 personnel to administer inspections in three shifts, they said, adding that it would also take time and funding to train the additional workforce.
The expanded inspections could trigger complaints from travelers, affecting the annual service quality review, they added.
The National Police Agency’s Border Affairs Corps said it could block the entry of tourists who have been fined by the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine for bringing contraband into the nation, even after they have passed through passport control.
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