July 7, 2020


Australia's chief veterinary officer says COVID-19 border closures helps Australia battle ASF


Dr Mark Schipp, Australia's chief veterinary officer said border closures due to COVID-19 have reduced the risk of African swine fever (ASF) from entering Australia, ABC News reported.


According to Dr Schipp, Australia's top animal health official, ASF entry into Australia is difficult because of COVID-19 related border shutdowns, in addition to biosecurity officersstopping any possible incursion of ASF into the country.


Biosecurity officers in Australia have stopped 8,000 international travelers carrying swine products and 1,300 pork products arriving via mail from the start of this year to May 31.


An Australian Pork Limited funded study found that ASF outbreak could cause AUD 2 billion (~US$1.38 billion; AUD 1 = US$0.69) worth of damages to the domestic economy.


However, Dr Schipp added that ASF has showed no signs of slowing down overseas.


The spread of ASF around the world has been attributed to wild boar population movement and human travelers carrying ASF-infected pork products around the world.


Dr Schipp said ASF outbreaks have increased in nearby developing countries, but the COVID-19 related border closures have resulted in Australian experts unable to travel to aid. Assistance is provided remotely where possible.


-      ABC News Australia


Dead pigs floating in a dirty river in Timor Leste

ASF was detected in Timor-Leste in September last year, and the outbreak killed 50,000 pigs within three months.(Supplied: Joanita Jong)


In Timor-Leste, containment efforts have been strained by a lack of resources needed to fight two pandemics at once.


ASF was detected in Timor-Leste in September last year, and within three months the outbreak killed 50,000 pigs or 12.5 per cent of the country's pig herd.

COVID-19 impacts efforts


Timor-Leste's chief veterinary officer and national director of animal health, Joanita Jong, said seven of the country's 13 municipalities were now affected by ASF.


However, the recent national lockdown and movement restrictions because of COVID-19 have hampered ASF surveillance efforts, public awareness campaigns and treatment in remote communities.


"With the COVID-19 situation, everything has changed [from ASF information] to COVID-19 information, and we're not really talking about any issue about animal disease at all."


Pig production is an integral part of Timor-Leste's culture and social fabric, and pork consumption is usually reserved for special ceremony and celebration.


It is also a financial mainstay for the country's farmers.


She said local authorities have launched a public awareness campaign and a recently-established diagnostic lab has also boosted biosecurity efforts in Timor-Leste.


A massive international effort to find a vaccine is ongoing and researchers in the UK and China claim to have made significant progress.


However, Dr Schipp said ASF was a very complex virus and the difficulty of finding a vaccine was not dissimilar to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.