Those bringing pork products into the country from Thailand are to face a fine of at least NT$200,000 (US$7,229), after the country on Tuesday declared its first case of African swine fever.
Starting immediately, offenders are to be fined NT$200,000 for the first offense and NT$1 million for repeat offenses, the Central Emergency Operation Center said on Tuesday.
Foreign nationals who cannot pay the fine would be denied entry and deported, the agency added.
The tightened restrictions were announced after the Thai Department of Livestock Development on Tuesday confirmed the country’s first case of the virus in a surface swab sample from a slaughterhouse in Nakhon Pathom Province.
One sample tested positive from among 309 blood and surface samples collected in hog farming areas, the department said.
Bangkok said it would report the findings to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and declare the 5km radius around the slaughterhouse an outbreak zone.
It is considering culling pigs farmed in the area, it added.
As per OIE regulations, a country must be declared as affected once the virus has been detected within its borders, Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Deputy Director-General Hsu Jung-pin (徐榮彬) said.
The heightened penalties also come after the bureau detected the virus on sausages sent from Thailand on Dec. 15 and 27 last year, as well as Monday last week.
Inspections of packages and luggage originating from Southeast Asia would be bolstered, the bureau said, adding that it is paying close attention to the issue.
As travel and mail volumes increase with the approaching Lunar New Year holiday, parcels, luggage and shipments from affected and high-risk areas would be inspected one by one, the center said.
During an inspection yesterday at the Tainan Mail Processing Center, where the three cases were detected, Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said that packages would be opened and inspected on the spot if flagged by a sniffer dog.
The number of incoming packages of banned pork products has increased by more than 50 percent between 2020 and last year, namely from affected areas such as China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam and Thailand, Chen said, urging residents not to order pork from such areas.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has also called on the council, and the ministries of finance and transportation and communications to draw up increased measures to prevent the virus from entering the country, Chen added.
As it is difficult to identify the sender of a package, penalties would focus on recipients, a council representative said.
Residents who receive a package containing pork from an unknown source should contact the bureau, which would collect and destroy it.
Those who do not comply would face fines of NT$30,000 to NT$150,000 under the Act for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease (動物傳染病防治條例).
The center also vowed to improve communication with foreign residents and to work with businesses to ensure no meat products with unclear sourcing are sold.
Farm inspections would be bolstered along with food waste sanitization and other enhanced measures, it added.
Although African swine fever does not pose a risk to humans, the virus can be fatal to pigs and severely affect pork producers.
The virus has been detected in most of Asia, although Taiwan and Japan have not been affected.
Nations in Asia affected by African swine fever are: Bhutan; Cambodia; China, including Hong Kong and Macau; Indonesia; India; Laos; Malaysia; Mongolia; Myanmar; North Korea; the Philippines; South Korea; Thailand; East Timor; and Vietnam.
Additional reporting by Reuters and CNA
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