Premier urges all-out effort to combat ASF spread to Taiwan

Premier Lai Ching-te speaks at the second meeting of the Central Emergency Operation Center in case of an outbreak of ASF on Jan. 4, 2018. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) called on Jan. 4 for an all-out effort by the government and private sector to combat African swine flu (ASF), as the risk of the virus spreading from China to Taiwan increases.

Speaking at the second meeting of the Central Emergency Operation Center in case of an outbreak of ASF, Lai said that cooperation between the central and local authorities and pig farmers must be further strengthened to prevent the pig epidemic from reaching Taiwan after a second dead pig was found floating near the coast of Kinmen Island.

Lai stressed that anti-ASF drills must be conducted across Taiwan to accumulate experience in prevention work and dealing with any potential ASF outbreak. He asked the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and Council of Agriculture (COA) to deal with the dead pigs and drills in close collaboration with experts, central and local government agencies.

As of on Jan. 4 morning, nine cities and counties had set up ASF control centers, while five others are ready to do so and eight have yet to take action, according to Lai, who noted that he has ordered the establishment of such centers across the country before midnight on Jan. 4.

Following confirmation that a pig carcass discovered on a beach in Kinmen Monday tested positive for the ASF virus Thursday, a second dead pig was spotted by Coast Guard Administration officers in waters near the island on Jan. 4, raising concern it could come from China, which is experiencing a nationwide outbreak of ASF.

Lai urged China to make public its ASF information and called for cooperation with neighboring countries in Southeast Asia to jointly combat the virus.

The premier asked the EPA to handle maritime debris floating from China to Taiwan with great caution, especially in waters near the offshore islands.

A ban has been placed on meat products made in Kinmen being shipped to Taiwan proper for two weeks, effective On Jan. 4, as part of government efforts to contain the ASF virus.

Meanwhile, foreign passengers caught trying to bring meat products into Taiwan will be fined between NT$200,000 (US$6,470) and NT$1 million, which they will be required to pay before being allowed back into the country, a COA official said.

By Yang Shu-min and Flor Wang