Mon, Mar 31, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Premier may abate `small three links' to fight SARS

DECISIONS Yu Shyi-kun will announce whether the Cabinet intends to temporarily suspend the 'mini three links' in an effort to stem the spread of the illness

CNA , TAIPEI

A staff member from the Department of Health's Center for Disease Control demonstrates how to put on an N-95 mask during a press conference yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Premier Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday the Cabinet will decide today whether to suspend the "small three links" as a preventative measure against the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to Taiwan's frontline islands.

Yu made the remarks after the Lienchiang County Government came up with the proposal amid concerns over the current global outbreak of SARS.

As Fujian abuts the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, which is thought to be the origin of the SARS outbreak, the Lienchiang County Government sent a letter to the Cabinet last Friday calling for a temporary suspension of the "small three links." The Kinmen County Government may also make a similar request later.

Yu said several elements must be weighed in tackling the issue, including public health, national development and the international response.

"We should evaluate whether suspension of the `small three links' at this moment might cause unnecessary misunderstanding in China and the international community," he explained, adding that the Cabinet is conducting an overall review and that a final decision is expected to be made today.

Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the nation's top mainland policy planner, will make an inspection tour of Kinmen today to see in person if the anti-SARS measures have been implemented and assess the possible impact of abandoning the "small three links" in the campaign against the deadly respiratory disease.

Tsai will call a MAC meeting after her return, and will present her conclusions at the meeting which will be referred to the Cabinet to serve as a reference in deciding whether to suspend the "small three links."

As of noon yesterday, Taiwan had reported 62 suspected SARScases, with 12 listed as "probable cases."

Lee Lung-teng (李龍騰), deputy director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) under the Department of Health, said the coming two weeks could be a "peak season" for the SARS outbreak in Taiwan.

To more effectively contain the spread of the disease, Lee said, the CDC will send staff members to Hong Kong to acquire relevant viral testing materials to speed up the screening of possible SARS carriers.

Meanwhile, the CDC issued "home confinement" notices to 200-plus probable SARS carriers yesterday. More than 500 people around the country have been subject to the strict "stay home" quarantine measure so far. This high-risk group of people include medical staff who have treated SARS patients, passengers who had been aboard the same flights as SARS carriers, and family members of SARS patients.

Starting yesterday noon, all inbound and outbound passengers will be required to fill out a SARS survey form at Taiwan's main gateways -- CKS International Airport in the north and Kaohsiung International Airport in the south.

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