Typo exposes Namibia to animal disease

The countries affected by the suspension are the Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, Ukraine, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Denmark and France.

18 January 2021 | Agriculture



A typing error in an announcement meant to communicate government’s decision to suspend the import of poultry products from 10 European countries hit by the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) provided a loophole for importers to continue operating.

The agriculture ministry issued a notice on 29 December 2020 suspending the importation of poultry products.

“We will allow cartons to be sorted according to date of production”, the ministry wrote.

This, however, should have read “we will not allow cartons to be sorted according to date of production”.

Ministerial officials said some importers took advantage of the error.

More than two weeks later, the ministry rectified the error last week.

“Please note that a reefer container will be regarded as a consignment, and will be handled as an entity. We will not allow cartons to be sorted according to date of production,” veterinary chief Dr. Albertina Shoopala announced.

Highly contagious

The announcement came after an outbreak of HPAI in Europe late last year.

The countries affected by the suspension are the Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, Ukraine, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Denmark and France. Over 300 cases were reported in these between October and November 2020.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, HPAI is a highly contagious viral disease that affects both domestic and wild birds. Human infections are primarily acquired through direct contact with infected animals or contaminated environments, as these viruses have not acquired the ability of sustained transmission among humans.

“The Directorate of Veterinary Services would like to inform the importers about the immediate suspension of import and in transit movement of live poultry, birds, raw/uncooked poultry products, live ostriches and raw ostrich products from the abovementioned countries due to the outbreak of HPAI in poultry in these countries,” Shoopala said.

Permits cancelled

According to the European Food Safety Authority, the majority of detections were in wild birds, although there have been a handful of outbreaks in poultry. At the time, European authorities warned that the likelihood of the virus spreading from wild birds to poultry was high.

The ministry also announced that consignments containing poultry products packed in their final packaging on or after the date of the commencement of the suspension would be rejected and sent back to the country of origin or destroyed at the importer’s cost.

Shoopala added that all previously issued import and in transit permits are cancelled with immediate effect.

“We have suspended the importation and also in- transit movements of all live birds and poultry products from South Africa. The suspension comes a result of a notification from South Africa on the outbreak of HPAI in that country,” she said.

According to her, provision will only be made for cooked poultry meat products meant for commercial purposes may still be imported into Namibia under the veterinary import permit.

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