Taiwan expands hand luggage checks to arrivals from Russia

Passengers arriving at Taiwan airports and seaports from Russia are now subject to hand luggage checks, as part of the government's efforts to prevent the entry of African swine fever (ASF), the Council of Agriculture (COA) said Wednesday.

The measure was put in place July 19, following the resumption in May of direct flights between Taiwan and Russia, a country with an ASF epidemic, Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said at a news conference.

Currently, Taiwan's regulations stipulate that all passengers from countries and areas where there are ASF outbreaks must present their hand luggage for inspection at Customs.

Prior to the addition of Russia, the countries and areas listed were China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, North Korea and South Korea, according to the Cabinet's Central Emergency Operation Center for ASF.

Visitors from ASF-affected countries who attempt to bring pork products into Taiwan will be fined NT$200,000 (US$6,490) if they are first-time offenders, while repeat offenders will face a fine of NT$1 million, the center said.

Travelers bringing pork products into Taiwan from non-ASF-affected countries will be fined NT$30,000, according to the emergency center.

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

Since last August, 1,958 pork products confiscated at Taiwan ports of entry have been checked for ASF, with 88 testing positive -- 82 from China and six from Vietnam, COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城) said, citing statistics from the emergency center.

As of July, 18.8 percent of the products that had tested positive for ASF were from China, he said.

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