Bali travellers face increased biosecurity screening as farmers urge government action

Bali travellers face increased biosecurity screening as farmers urge government action

Farmers are urging the government to subject travellers returning from Bali to special biosecurity screenings to keep an infectious disease at bay.

No, we’re not talking about COVID this time.

An outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) on the Indonesian island is threatening to impact Bali’s tourism comeback, with the federal government increasing biosecurity measures on Wednesday.

Minister for Agriculture, Senator Murray Watt said the new measures build on additional measures the Government had already put in place when the Indonesian outbreak first began in May including targeted operations at major airports to check a wider range of passengers who could be contaminated with FMD or carrying contaminated goods.

Watt said all passengers on flights from Indonesia would be assessed on arrival with high-risk passengers– those who have come into contact with livestock– facing additional screening.

“Following official confirmation from Indonesian authorities yesterday that FMD had spread to Bali, new measures were immediately imposed to protect Australia’s livestock industry from this threat,” Watt said.

However, National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson told the Sydney Morning Herald the measures wouldn’t be enough and warned an outbreak would mean “disaster for everyone” and rip up to $80 billion from the economy.

“Every person should be at least questioned by a biosecurity officer, if not subject to an inspection,” she said.

While FMD does not pose a risk to human health, it can be passed onto livestock from clothing or footwear and cause painful blisters in cattle, sheep, pigs and goats.

An outbreak could lead to a mass slaughter of livestock to eradicate the highly infectious disease.

Watt ruled out a travel ban between Bali and Australia, but told ABC Radio Brisbane that starting from Thursday “every single plane that returns to Australia we will have biosecurity officers board” who will “read out a special message focused on foot and mouth disease”.

The Minister also said that extra measures such as foot baths would not be necessary, considering many travellers would be wearing thongs.

“Having said that, I am asking the question and other solutions are being suggested to me around disinfectant mats or other things like that,” he said.

Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton agreed with the government’s decision to keep a travel ban off the table.

“We’ve got to remember this isn’t all about us. Our nearest neighbour and friend in Indonesia is dealing with an outbreak that is impacting their food security and livelihoods,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“We should be assisting as much as possible with vaccines and technical support for biosecurity control.”

Bali was one of the hardest-hit destinations by the COVID-19 travel bans, with more than 400,000 Balinese people losing their jobs due to the lack of tourism.

The island has been fully open to Aussie travellers since mid-March, and recent data from Virgin Australia shows that Bali is the top searched destination for Aussie travellers right now with 90,000 searches, according to News.com.


Image: Facebook/australianbiosec

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