Cabinet considers swine fever, coronavirus test machine

The Government is in discussions about importing a machine said to be capable of potentially detecting both the African Swine Fever (A.S.F.) and the coronavirus, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, has confirmed. 

He revealed that a proposal is before Cabinet to consider the purchase of one of the machines with the said capability to test for both diseases. 

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Lopao’o said the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S.) has the technical ability to test for A.S.F. but lacks the necessary equipment.

“We have the submission going through to Cabinet to secure this equipment to test African Swine Fever and not only that the equipment can test coronavirus,” said the Minister. 

“The equipment they are getting from overseas can test the coronavirus but the main reason why we are getting the equipment is to test the African Swine Fever.

“It can also get D.N.A. testing for drug [users] and can use the same equipment to test plant D.N.A.”

Lopao’o said he could not divulge basic information including the name of the equipment or where it was manufactured. 

He did confirm that the funding for the machine would come from S.R.O.S.’ budget allocation if approved by Cabinet and would cost an estimated $550,000/

The announcement from the Minister follows a notice from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.) on Friday evening banning all imported pork products from countries affected by A.S.F. 

The M.A.F. Chief Executive Officer, Tilafono David Hunter, said the suspension on the sale of pork products and importation of pork goods from affected countries is to protect the fragile domestic pork industry. 

More than 40 million pigs were killed in China last year after contracting the disease, for which there is no cure. 

The Ministry is currently sending samples of pork products overseas to confirm that it is free from A.S.F. 

Tilafono said one of the most frequently imported pork products to Samoa from China are pork luncheon cans. 

However, he pointed out China is not the only country that is affected by the African swine fever. There are 26 other countries not including those from Africa, which have registered cases of the disease. 

The restricted measures issued by the M.A.F. follows a Cabinet directive on 18 March 2020 noting the risk to Samoa’s biosecurity. 

The Ministry states that any permit issued prior to the notice which allowed importation of pork and/or pork products is now varied to comply with this Notice pursuant to section 12(4) of the Quarantine (Biosecurity) Act 2005. 

The C.E.O. urged stores to comply with the notice from the Ministry to remove all pork products imported from China and the other affected countries from shelves until further notice. 

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