TAOYUAN (The China Post) – Council of Agriculture Chairman Chen Chi-Chong (陳吉仲) requested on Jan. 16 more manpower from the Aviation Police Bureau (APU) to establish a third line of protection against the spread of the African swine fever (ASF). The council has already established a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the screening of carry-on luggage as requested by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) during his recent inspection at the Taoyuan International Airport.
Currently, the first step is to have carry-on luggage inspected manually, especially on flights from ASF-infected regions. Meat products or fresh foods will have to be disposed upon request, although Chairman Chen said that fines will be waived at this stage as long as passengers discard the aforesaid products.
Then, customs officers will distribute flyers upon checking passports. They will remind passengers again that fresh foods and meat products are prohibited from entering Taiwan. Passengers won’t be fined at this stage if they choose to give up the goods. Next, luggage will be inspected again at the baggage carousels by quarantine dogs. At this point, passengers will be fined if fresh foods and meat products are discovered.
Chairman Chen said that the APU has dispatched more than 40 officers to help with the inspection in order to reach a 100-percent inspection rate. The average time for each passenger passing through the customs increased by seven to 12 minutes as result. How long will this inspection last? Chen said that the fight against ASF is for the long-haul. Once authorities have established a long-term SOP, and less manpower will be needed.
So, how do you establish a long-term SOP? Previously, Chen considered installing six X-ray machines, although more equipment might eventually be needed. He said that the COA will need to have further discussions on the exact number in the near future. These X-ray machines will hopefully lower the workload from related agencies.
Chen added that Mongolia is the first Asian country aside from China to have experienced an outburst of swine fever. This shows that ASF has spread, he said. The COA will also prepare a long-term plan to fight the fever. They also said that they will try their best to minimize the inconvenience caused to passengers and airport operations.