Sun, May 04, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Stop panic, dissent and ignorance

By the Liberty Times editorial

The government has, for the first time in Taiwan's history of disease control, sealed off a hospital for collective medical treatment and quarantine, all because of an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Thereafter, spread of the disease rapidly hit new heights in Taiwan.

Some members of the general public responded with irrational protests out of ignorance and panic. For example, some residents of Yuanchang township in Yunlin County protested against the shipment of waste from the quarantined hospital, Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital, to Yuanchang incinerators. At the same time, Hsinchu Mayor Lin Junq-tzer (林正則) led protests against the transfer of patients from Hoping Hospital to a Hsinchu hospital.

While the underlying reasons for such action is understandable, they should not be allowed to escape legal consequences and moral condemnation.

Taiwan is a community upon which the lives of more than 23 million people are interconnected. Inhabitants of the nation are one community facing a common destiny. Once any natural or man-made disasters takes place, no one can stay out of it. Therefore, people should learn to help and appreciate one another. No one should think only of him or herself and refuse to extend a helping hand as needed.

Otherwise, if everyone simply sealed off his or her home, town, or city and turn it into a fortress, what kind of country would Taiwan become? No wonder Premier Yu Shyi-kun said to local government heads at a conference on disease control that people should rediscover "Taiwanese values" and help themselves by first helping others. People must cross party lines and regional boundaries to fight the contagion.

Premier Yu said that "after this is all over, [we] don't want to look back at [conduct of] Taiwanese during this period of time and wonder what happened to humanity? Don't let Taiwan lose faith in human nature and don't give the international community a reason to deride Taiwan."

To everyone in the country, the invasion of the epidemic has been a dreadful disaster. So far, the international medical community has not yet developed a vaccine. All one can do is to rely on the accumulation of experience to treat the infected. Frankly speaking, this type of medical treatment depends too much on dumb luck.

Fortunately, the mortality rate for the disease, even is the countries with the highest mortality rate, is no higher than 10 percent. On average, the figure is around 4 percent to 5 percent. Therefore, there is no need for the general public to panic, thinking that there is no cure and that the only recourse for an infected person is to sit and wait for death. Otherwise, there will be more tragedies like the suicide of one patient at the Hoping Hospital.

In any event, the disease has devastated Taiwan. Not only has the general public been plagued with hysteria but social order could is in danger of collapsing. Some industries, such as the tourism industry, aviation industry, restaurant industry and leisure and entertainment industry, have endured severe clashes. Moreover, the stock market has experienced severe declines, depreciating stock values by about NT$1 trillion within just days. The economic clashes are no less severe than those inflicted by the 921 earthquake.

After the 921 earthquake, although the nation had suffered from a high number of injuries and deaths, the entire country became mobilized on its own initiative and people devoted themselves to the post-quake relief works. Those with money offered money, while those with muscle offered a helping hand. People from different parties, regions and ethnic groups cast aside their differences and worked together, doing what they could for their fellow countrymen.

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