FIJI MUST GUARD AGAINST TRAVEL THREATS

Editorial

Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (Oct. 12) – Travel and travellers have always been a source of introduction of many things, not all of which are good.

That's why it is important that the country's Quarantine Department be given all the resources it needs to help ensure that everything that does arrive from outside is not a danger to Fiji.

The fact that the department is taking very seriously the threat of bird flu from Asian countries is a good sign for the country's citizens.

For most people bird flu may be something alien that they read about in the news that has killed a few people here and there.

But the fact that such a disease can be transmitted from animals to humans is a significant danger.

Bird flu has already spread from Asia to parts of Europe, which officials say has happened because of the migration patterns of birds.

While our physical isolation has been bemoaned by many people over the ages, the Pacific is fortunate in this particular case.

Asia is not that far away from us and many people do business with Asia.

The Quarantine Department says that it is now going to destroy any agricultural or food products that are brought into Fiji without proper approvals.

It is also inspecting all freight containers and closely monitoring fishing boats that come from Asia to check for foodstuff.

Their concerns are real.

The country has already learned of significant operations to crack down on people who illegally bring items into the country — some of which have allegedly occurred through foreign fishing vessels.

Police and customs officials have already conducted raids to seek out such people and the goods they bring in.

What these departments need now is stronger legislation granting higher penalties to people who risk our health and well-being by bringing such items into Fiji.

This will also help police with other illegal activities such as drug smuggling.

With tourism a major industry here, the Government should also take seriously the threats present if someone, perhaps unwittingly, brings in a dangerous product.

We may live on an island, but we are not immune to the dangers present all around us.

We must protect our environment and our health with whatever means necessary.

October 13, 2005

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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