On Wednesday, David Hong (
Hong broached the idea at a meeting of business leaders and it quickly gained the backing of many in attendance, including General Chamber of Commerce (GCC) chairman Gary Wang (
The social and economic costs would be enormous. If the plan worked, however, such costs could be worth it. After all, many businesses and shops couldn't possibly fare much worse than they are now as people cut back on shopping and entertainment spending for fear of contracting SARS. If the outbreak continues unabated for two to three more months, the economic and social costs would be more than those incurred by implementing Hong's proposal.
Council for Economic Planning and Development Vice Chairman Ho Mei-yueh (
Ho is correct. But what if the scope of the measures' application is narrowed and confined to those areas and facilities that are non-manufacturing-
related and open to the general public, such as theaters, department stores, parks, restaurants, government agencies and schools?
Factories and plants, as well as essential public facilities such as hospitals, police stations and perhaps public transportation could continue to operate under strict supervision. This would reduce the chances of the disease being spread to strangers, or unidentifiable targets. As a matter of fact, the plan could be confined to Taipei City, where the spread of the disease is the most serious.
Some of the critical supplemental measures would be the provision of home-learning programs for students and company leave for working parents. The Ministry of Education has already indicated it has devised plans to air such programs through the Public Television Service or other local television stations.
However, in view of what has happened over the past weeks, it seems hard to envision the central and local governments being able to muster the high level of coordination, cooperation, efficiency and precision essential to such a measure. The lack of a coordinated plan for all levels of the nation's medical facilities to deal with SARS as well as shortage of face masks has called into question the governments' ability to coordinate and execute key strategies.
It is also hard to image that many members of the general public would be willing to cooperate with such a life-altering move. A lot of people are not willing to follow the government's existing anti-SARS measures. So the idea of even more restrictive measures being ordered, agreed to and enforced is quite remote.