The nation saw its biggest one-day jump in probable SARS cases yesterday as the island group of Kinmen imposed tough new travel restrictions and two more hospitals in Taiwan were forced to close their doors.
Health authorities reported 36 new SARS probable cases and five more SARS deaths yesterday, bringing the total number of SARS probable cases to 344 and death toll to 40.
Most of the cases were reported from the nation's two leading medical institutions: National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei City and the Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.
Meanwhile, the Kinmen County Government is set to impose a set of safeguards on Taiwanese travelers today after the Cabinet on Saturday turned down its proposal to impose a 10-day compulsory quarantine on visitors from Taiwan.
The county had originally planned to implement the quarantine today.
The protective measures implemented today include requiring travelers from Taiwan to fill out SARS forms on the plane, wear face masks when outside as well as avoiding public places and taking public transit.
Kinmen County Commissioner Lee Chu-feng (李炷烽) said the county ditched the original plan because the central government finally got the county's message.
"I guess they finally understand that we'll do whatever it takes to safeguard the interests of our people," Lee said.
The Kinmen County Council threw its weight behind the county government's decision.
"What we're asking is not too much," said County Council speaker Chuang Liang-shih (莊良時). "We'd like the central government to treat us on a par with other local governments."
The central government agreed on Saturday to temporarily suspend the "small three links" in response to Kinmen residents' growing concern over the spread of SARS.
Kinmen reported its first SARS case on May 6 when a 42-year-old woman who had flown from Taipei to Kinmen on May 2 to attend a family funeral fell ill. She died of SARS on Wednesday.
In related news, the Taipei Municipal Gandau Hospital yesterday shut down its emergency ward and normal treatment services for two days after five of the hospital's health-care workers and a janitor were reported as suspected SARS cases.
Over 200 in-house patients and 15 health-care workers who were in close contact with the suspected SARS patients are under quarantine in the hospital.
Thirty-five in-house patients discharged from the hospital and 20 more health-care workers and their families also began their home quarantine yesterday.
The Gandau hospital is managed by the Veterans General Hospital and supervised by the Taipei City Government.
According to Chiu Shu-ti (
The Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital closed down normal treatment services at its children's hospital after a nurse there developed a high fever. Earlier on Friday, the Chang Gung Hospital was forced to shut down its emergency room and normal treatment services as well as the emergency room of the children's hospital.