Fri, May 02, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Deadly disease finally starting to make an impression on people's daily living


The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has changed the lifestyle of people in Taiwan, with many being more inclined to stay at home and to wash their hands more frequently, according to the results of a public opinion poll released yesterday.

The telephone survey of 838 randomly selected adult residents, conducted by the United Daily News on Wednesday found that 62 percent of the respondents have cut the number of visits to public places.

Seventy-one percent said they have increased the number of times they wash their hands in order to avoid being infected with SARS while 35 percent said they are now in the habit of wearing a surgical mask.

With the number of new SARS cases continuing to rise, 59 percent of respondents said that they have begun feeling unease about the epidemic while 41 percent said that they have not been psychologically affected.

However, there has not been a significant increase in the number of people concerned about contracting the disease since a similar poll last week. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said they are afraid of coming down with SARS, roughly the same figure as in the earlier poll.

The percentage of people who said they are not worried about contracting SARS rose to 43 percent from 35 percent in the earlier poll. Analysts attributed the rise partly to the public's increased awareness of this new disease.

While 62 percent said that they are generally satisfied with the government's response to the SARS outbreak, 25 percent said that they are dissatisfied.

Asked about their views on compulsory quarantine and shutdown of hospitals over SARS risks, 81 percent said that they support such measures and only 6 percent gave a thumbs-down.

The survey also discovered that protests by some local government chiefs against SARS medical facilities in their constituencies didn't receive recognition from ordinary people. Up to 61 percent of respondents said they are not opposed to admitting SARS patients into hospitals in their cities or counties, while 29 percent said they were, and 10 percent said they have no opinion on the issue.

More respondents voiced confidence in the government's ability to fight SARS -- 71 percent -- compared to 48 percent a week earlier. The percentage of people who lack confidence in the government's competence dropped from 30 percent to 18 percent.

The respondents were divided regarding how the SARS outbreak will develop in the future, with 39 percent saying that they foresee a further spread of the illness around the country and 37 percent forecasting a slowdown.

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