Foreigners who bring pork products into Taiwan from places where African swine fever has been reported will have a choice: pay a fine of NT$200,000 (HK$50,677) or be denied entry to the country, according to Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture Deputy Chief Huang Chin-cheng.
The decision, effective from Friday, comes amid fears over a spread of the epidemic that has swept across mainland China, with at least 106 cases reported across 24 provinces and regions.
A previous measure only refused entry to those returning to Taiwan who had not paid an earlier fine, with repeat offenders liable to a fine of up to NT$1 million (HK$253,445).
African swine flu is a highly contagious viral disease that is transmitted through direct contact with affected animals and can survive months in frozen or processed food. Although it does not affect humans, it is lethal to pigs. There is currently no known vaccine or cure.
During a press conference on Thursday, Huang said that an additional four items of pork products entering Taiwan from the mainland had tested positive for African swine fever, bringing the total number of cases to 18 since last year.
Taiwanese authorities have repeatedly criticised Beijing for failing to control the epidemic, which has resulted in the slaughter of almost a million pigs in the mainland.
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) January 5, 2019
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the disease was first reported in China in August last year, representing a considerable threat to the region. From December 15 2018 to January 17 2019, China reported 71,715 animal deaths from African swine fever.
Last week, Taipei Taoyuan Airport began conducting carry-on luggage checks alongside X-ray inspections of passengers from Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, and Vietnam, in a bid to halt the spread of the disease through imported pork products.