African Swine Fever fight continues despite lockdown

Despite the coronavirus being the country’s major health threat, the Ministry of Agriculture (M.A.F.) says its efforts to combat African Swine Fever (A.S.F.) are ongoing amidst the lockdown. 

Despite Samoa being marked safe from the deadly virus, the Ministry has declared a temporary banning of the importation and sale of pork sourced from countries affected by A.S.F. late last month. 

The M.A.F. is patiently awaiting a chance to fly out a selection of pork product samples for testing in Australia.

The M.A.F. Chief Executive Officer, Tilafono David Hunter, said that unless results come back confirming that the products on store shelves are clear, the temporary ban will then be lifted.

Pleading for affected businesses to show patience, Tilafono said the testing was crucial to keeping Samoa's piggery industry safe.

"The best thing to do is to wait, if they are clear then they are free to sell again," said Tilafono.

Currently, there have been no recorded cases of non-compliance from wholesalers and retail stores.

Tilafono wished to stress that Samoa remains safe from the disease and pork is still safe for consumption.

But it is better to be stringent at the nation’s borders rather than dealing with it after it reaches the country, he said.

The disease does not affect humans, but they can be carriers.

The virus is spread by direct contact between pigs which are infected and their bodily fluids or tissues and indirectly from contact with contaminated objects such as vehicles, equipment, footwear, clothing or food. 

The only way to limit the spread of the virus is to slaughter infected animals. 

So far, the pandemic has led to outbreaks being reported in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe, South America, Caribbean as well as the Pacific.

Papua New Guinea is the only infected Pacific country so far. Four separate outbreaks are currently ongoing in the country.

Since the confirmation of an outbreak in P.N.G., Australia's multimillion pork industry is on high alert due to its close proximity.

Tilafono said that if Australia were ever infected with A.S.F., the importation of pork products from there will cease immediately but he hopes it remains unaffected. 

"In regards to Australia and New Zealand, we don't have any issues with pork products coming from over there," he said.

"Fresh or frozen or anything, because officially piggery and pork resources from over there are still free from the A.S.F. virus.

"Now, of course, it's coming closer; it's in Papua New Guinea. 

"I am pretty sure that Australia will save their huge piggery resources and their pork industry. They will give every effort to stop it from coming into Australia.

"So naturally if Australia gets it, it is our duty to also ban any pork products from Australia, and similarly, New Zealand."

A.S.F. is a viral disease that affects both domestic and wild pigs.

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