Sat, May 17, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Japan to send health experts to Taiwan to aid in SARS fight

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH AFP

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that the Japanese government has decided to dispatch two physicians -- a health ministry official as well as a member of the Interchange Association -- to help Taiwan combat SARS.

The medical experts will arrive in Taipei on Tuesday for a six-day visit, said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦).

Shih was responding to reports from Tokyo that Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi had announced Japan was considering sending medical experts to Taiwan.

"We need to do what we can promptly as Taiwan is very close to Japan geographically and there are frequent exchanges of people," Kawaguchi told a news conference, noting Tokyo had received a request for help from Taiwan.

"We are arranging a dispatch of medical experts through the [Japan-Taiwan] Interchange Association," she said.

The association has offices in Tokyo and Taipei acting as de facto diplomatic missions.

Kawaguchi also said the Cabinet had approved giving ?1.5 billion (US$13 million) in aid to China for the purchase of medical supplies.

The grant brought the sum of Japan's aid to China to ?1.76 billion, including funding and the dispatch of doctors.

Japan's aid to Taiwan won plaudits from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"We would like to express our welcome and appreciation for Japan's promise to help," Shih said.

The team from Tokyo plans to bring with them desperately needed protective body suits, he said.

The ministry has been discussing the SARS situation with the Department of Health, the Interchange Association (Japan) Taipei Office, as well as Taiwan's representative office in Tokyo, ministry officials said.

Meanwhile, Dr. James Young, commissioner for public safety for the Canadian province of Ontario, who led the effort to combat the SARS outbreak in Toronto, is scheduled to arrive in Taipei on Tuesday for a three-day visit, the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei said yesterday.

The trade office said the Canadian government's sponsorship of Young's visit is part its effort to work with international partners to fight the SARS outbreak.

The WHO has removed Toronto from its list of areas with recent local transmission of SARS, a move that showed the virus has been contained and controlled in Canada.

The Canadian Trade Office also welcomed Taiwan's decision, effective yesterday, to allow all travelers from Canada -- including Toronto -- to board airplanes to Taiwan, provided they have valid passports and visas.

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