Sat, May 03, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Disease prevention bill passes

CONTROLLING SARS A NT$50 billion fund will be used by the government to pay for medical expenses and help devastated industries such as the local tourism sector

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature rushed to complete its review of a special regulation stipulating relief and prevention measures against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.

"The legislature promptly finished both the second and third reading of the special regulation in one day to demonstrate our willingness to cooperate with the nationwide effort to contain the fatal epidemic," said Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

A special fund totaling NT$50 billion will be used for subsidizing SARS-related medical expenses and to mitigate the economic impact on local industries, after ruling and opposition lawmakers reach a consensus.

To pay for the special fund, the Executive Yuan will have to raise NT$3.5 billion before it could continue to use funds of NT$43 billion, without being restricted by the Public Debt Law (公共債務法).

The Executive Yuan would then have to collect another NT$3.5 billion at a later date to reach the goal of NT$50 billion.

The bill also stipulates that the government must compensate nurses who give their lives fighting the epidemic. The compensation will take form of subsidies for the victims' children's educational expenses.

People who are suspected of having SARS could face three years in jail or a maximum fine of NT$5 billion if they transmit the disease to other people on purpose.

The government should protect the working rights and the household of quarantined people, the bill stated, while necessary measures to compensate hospitals and clinics should be applied when they are shut down temporarily due to the threat of SARS.

Wang expressed gratitude to his legislative colleagues for formulating the regulation swiftly.

"The granted special fund within the approval will reinforce the Executive Yuan's capability to fight against the infection," he said.

The legislature started the scheduled second reading for the special bill yesterday afternoon, minutes after ruling and opposition legislators ended their final round of negotiations. The third reading was completed as soon as the second reading was finished.

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