President Tsai urges China to update Taiwan on ASF outbreak

Workers disinfect passing vehicles in an area having the latest incident of African swine flu outbreak on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. Reeling from rising feed costs in Beijing's tariff fight with U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese pig farmers face a new blow from an outbreak of African swine fever that has sent an economic shockwave through the countryside. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

TAIPEI (CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Dec. 18 urged China not to conceal the facts about the spread of African swine fever (ASF) there and she called for timely information about the situation.

“I would like to remind the government of mainland China that it is obliged to inform Taiwan of the latest developments with regard to ASF,” Tsai said in a media briefing in the hallway of the Presidential Office building.

Taiwan cannot afford to be kept in dark about the ASF outbreak, Tsai said, adding that the government of China must provide Taiwan with real-time information about the spread of the disease.

Tsai also reminded travelers to comply with the law and protect the local pig farming industry by not bringing meat products into Taiwan from ASF affected countries.

According to head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chen Ming-tong (陳明通), Taiwan has made three requests for discussions with China on possible measures against ASF, including a ban on the online sale of foreign pork products, but has not received a response.

Under the 2009 Cross-Strait Arrangement on Cooperation of Agricultural Product Quarantine and Inspection, Taiwan and China agreed to provide each other with information related to quarantine and inspection regulations, standards, and procedures and to provide mutual assistance as necessary.

Meanwhile, the Council of Agriculture (COA) on Tuesday launched a center for disaster prevention and response to better coordinate pre-emptive measures against an ASF outbreak in Taiwan and to limit transmission of the disease should the virus enter the country.

Pandemics “should be treated as a combat situation” and there should be no gaps in the prevention network, Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) said at the first meeting of the center, which was held with local quarantine officials via video conferencing.

Lai said he will embark on inspection tours of pig farms to ensure that biosecurity measures are being adopted and will check whether customs authorities are enforcing proper border controls to prevent the entry of ASF.

By Shih Hsiu-chuan