The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that it will send more experts to help Taiwan fight SARS, as the country struggles to contain the world's third-largest infection rate.
"Taiwan's SARS situation is not good. The WHO is arranging to dispatch more experts to Taiwan to provide help, and hope they can depart within 24 hours," the Central News Agency quoted WHO Spokesman Jack Thompson as saying in Geneva.
The WHO sent two experts to Taiwan on May 3 to assess the situation and give advice. One of them left last Friday, the other is still in Taipei.
Taiwan has the world's third-largest SARS infection and death toll, with 418 probable cases, out of which 52 people have died.
The WHO blames the quick outbreak on lapses in infection control, particularly in hospital emergency rooms.
Meanwhile, the WHO said yesterday that it has removed the Philippines from a list of SARS-affected countries and Australia lifted a warning against travel to Singapore.
The UN health agency said it was removing the Philippines from its list of SARS-affected places because it had had no new cases for 20 days, or two virus incubation periods.
"This means that travelers to the Philippines and residents are at no more risk than those in countries that have had no SARS cases," WHO representative Jean-Marc Olive said in a statement.
"It is now hoped that all travel restrictions imposed on the Philippines by other countries will be lifted."
Libya, Kuwait, Lebanon and Taiwan banned Filipinos from entering their territory, citing the danger of SARS. Bahrain and Singapore had imposed similar bans but lifted them prior to the WHO announcement.
Filipinos working abroad as nurses, maids, engineers, laborers and entertainers send home billions of dollars every year, contributing at least half a percentage point to gross national product.
The Philippines has reported 12 SARS cases and two deaths.
Twenty days without a new infection is a criterion the WHO uses to declare SARS under control. Canada and Vietnam have been removed from its SARS-affected list after reporting no new cases for a 20-day period.
Singapore went 19 days without a new SARS case until last Sunday when one new case dashed the city-state's hopes of getting off the WHO list.
Nevertheless, Australia said that, with only one new patient in three weeks, there was no longer a reason to recommend that people do not travel to Singapore.
But Australians are still advised to defer non-essential travel to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
China reported 12 new infections and Hong Kong just one, extending a steady decline in cases of the disease, which surfaced in southern China in November and has since killed at least 665 people worldwide.
Hong Kong said yesterday the SARS virus has killed two more people in the territory and infected just one -- the 18th day in a row that Hong Kong's new cases have been in single digits.
The virus has killed 294 people in China and infected 5,248.
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