Fri, May 09, 2003 - Page 1 News List

WHO extends advisory to Taipei

WARNING The health body said people should put off all non-essential travel to the country's capital after a recent sharp increase in the number of cases of SARS

STAFF WRITER WITH AP , GENEVA AND TAIPEI

The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday extended its SARS warning on travel to Taipei.

People planning to travel to the city from abroad should "consider postponing all but essential travel," said a statement by the UN agency.

The advisory has also been extended to the Chinese areas of Tianjin or Inner Mongolia.

"In these areas outbreaks are going on and we are not able to do the assessments to ensure these areas are safe," said WHO communicable diseases chief Dr. David Heymann.

In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last night that the government was aware of the WHO's decision but that the country would conquer the disease.

"We have already adopted strict measures to contain the outbreak of SARS," said Richard Shih (石瑞琦), the spokesman for the ministry. "We are confident that Taiwan will be removed from WHO's travel warning list quickly."

He also said that the government found it unacceptable for the WHO to continue listing Taiwan as a province of China.

The new regions are added to travel warnings for Hong Kong, Beijing and China's Guangdong and Shanxi provinces.

The WHO's move comes a day after the US Centers for Disease Control advised its citizens to postpone non-essential travel to Taiwan.

The WHO said it would regularly reassess whether to change its travel advice for the other areas.

It said it had "carefully reviewed" the information about the SARS outbreaks in Tianjin, Inner Mongolia and Taipei.

"The travel advice is based on a consideration of the magnitude of the outbreaks in these regions, including both the number of prevalent cases and the daily number of new cases."

WHO said the extent of "potential spread" was also taken into consideration.

Heymann said that in some cases in Taiwan, authorities have so far been unable to trace a link between patients and a previous SARS case.

He said Taiwan was notified on Wednesday of the WHO's intention to extend its travel advisory.

"Taiwan understands fully the reasons that we have put this out," he said.

He added that the spread of the disease in Taiwan was "no shame" for the health service there.

"This is a disease which is finding the very weakest points in our health system and entering through those weak points, and in most cases that is infection control," he said.

He added that strong measures to spot possible SARS sufferers at airports and other departure points and prevent them from traveling have ensured that no cases have been exported from Taiwan to other countries.

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