Sun, May 11, 2003 - Page 1 News List

WHO says SARS situation worsening

NEW CASES The health body, pointing to community transmission of the disease, has put Taipei in the same category as hard-hit areas of China, such as Guangdong


A man is turned away yesterday after trying to visit his mother in the Huachang Housing Complex in Taipei City to mark Mother's Day. The complex was first sealed off on Friday and the area under quarantine was expanded yesterday.


The World Health Organization's (WHO) Web site yesterday lumped Taipei together with Chinese regions that have reported a rapid spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). They included Hong Kong, Beijing, the southern city of Guangdong and the northern province of Shanxi.

The WHO warned yesterday that the SARS outbreak is becoming more serious in Taipei because officials cannot trace the infection source for a large number of people -- a sign the disease is getting out of control.

During the early stages of the epidemic, officials were able to quickly trace and isolate the infection sources -- many of whom were people who had recently visited China or Hong Kong. But SARS has begun spreading within the general community, making stopping it more difficult.

Responding to the WHO's warning, Premier Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday that the government will do its best to negotiate with the international body.

"However, our focus will be on how to ameliorate the situation. I believe if we do a good job in restraining the spread, we'll soon be removed from the list," Yu said.

Yu also called on the international body to include Taiwan in the global medical network and allow the country to share in international medical resources.

"It doesn't make any sense to exclude us from the international health community because viruses don't care about a person's age, sex, race or nationality, nor do they recognize a nation's sovereignty," Yu said.

Expert assistance

As the two medical experts dispatched by the WHO are scheduled to leave Taiwan on May 16, Department of Health Director-General Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) said yesterday the department has asked the two experts to convey the government's wish to receive more medical experts.


*Beginning today, passengers using the Taipei mass rapid transit system are required to wear masks. If passengers do not comply with the new measure, they will be subject to fines ranging from NT$1,500 to NT$7,500.

* As of Friday, bus and taxi drivers have to wear face masks.

* As of Wednesday, train passengers nationwide are requested to wear masks. Those without a mask must undergo temperature checks and those with a temperature of over 38C will be denied boarding.

* Starting next week, GPS equipment will be used to track those under home quarantine.

"I personally would like to see the organization dispatch six more medical experts, including two epidemiologists, two virologists and two community mobilization experts," Twu said.

Center for Disease Control (CDC) Director-General Chen Tzay-jinn (陳再晉), who has been accompanying the two WHO experts, has requested 10 professionals, Twu said.

Meanwhile, the nation yesterday announced tougher measures to contain SARS such as using Global Positioning System devices to trace people under quarantine.

"Starting next week, we will trace the A-category quarantined people to prevent them from moving around and infecting others," Vice Interior Minister Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said.

"By installing the device in their homes and putting a band on their wrists, we will know when they leave home," he said.

Taiwanese health officials yesterday announced 23 new SARS cases -- the highest number yet for a single day in the nation.

Rising death toll

Officials also recorded four more fatalities, raising the death toll to 18.

As of Friday afternoon, a cumulative total of 895 SARS cases had been reported, including 172 probable and 272 suspected cases, according to the CDC.

A total of 10,904 people have been put under home quarantine and 3,738 of them have been removed from the list.

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