Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 8 News List

It's not the time to open to China

By Kuo Cheng-deng 郭正典

The SARS storm, which probably originated from Foshan in China's Guangdong Province, has swept across the globe. The ailment has created a panic among the public because it is virulent, spreads rapidly and has a high mortality rate.

But it seems that some people in this nation are not that afraid of SARS. On the one hand, they call for the adoption of some measures to contain the spread of SARS, but on the other, they open up the back door for the sake of some uncertain benefits, leaving a loophole for SARS.

Based on the SARS virus genetic sequences released recently by different countries, the Biomedical Engineering Center of the Industrial Technology Research Institute conducted cross comparisons through nucleic acid and protein-sequential analyses. The results show that the SARS virus genetic sequences from Canada and Hong Kong are nearly identical, with similarities as high as 99.96 percent. It can be deduced that the two places contracted SARS from the same origin.

The dean of National Taiwan University's medical college, Chen Ding-shinn (陳定信), has said that the university's experiment confirmed that Taiwan's SARS virus is 99 percent similar to those from Canada and Hong Kong. No mutation was detected. This implies that the SARS virus spreading in Taiwan and Canada came from Hong Kong, which also means the epidemic in the three places all originated in Guangdong Province.

From a public health view-point, to prevent the spread of SARS, it is necessary for the government to block the entry of China's SARS carriers. The best way is to prohibit the entry of people from China.

The Cabinet recently promulgated new disease-control measures, demanding that all those arriving from China or other SARS-affected areas listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) be quarantined for 10 days. Heavy penalties will be meted out to violators.

In addition, the government also formulated the Temporary Provisions for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Prevention and Relief (嚴重急性呼吸道症候群防治及紓困暫行條例) on May 2 to strengthen its anti-SARS efforts, safeguard people's health and deal with the economic and social impact of the epidemic.

However, it is puzzling that as the government adopted the above measures to contain the epidemic, it was also considering offering chartered flights to bring home China-based Taiwanese busi-nesspeople infected with SARS.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) also said that, to ensure the nation's competitive edge in the Asia-Pacific region, the government should seriously assess a timetable for providing cargo transportation services across the Taiwan Strait and complete the formulation of the plan as soon as possible.

Why did the government bring up the cross-strait cargo issue in the middle of the concerted efforts to prevent SARS? We do not know the inside story. But DPP heavyweight Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌) said if the epidemic escalates in China, that nation's investment environment will be affected. As a result, an economic bubble might burst and affect China's economic development, forcing Taiwanese businesspeople to rearrange their production bases.

Therefore, according to Hong, the government must open up cross-strait cargo transportation to reduce business costs in China, thereby making up for the losses inflicted by the SARS outbreak.

Apparently, Hong and other DPP members have only busi-nesspeople, not the people of Taiwan, in mind. To reduce the cost of doing business in China, Taiwanese will have to risk their lives and social instability as well as a sluggish economy.

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