Sun, May 04, 2003 - Page 3 News List

SARS epidemic: Lawmaker urges quarantine overhaul

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government should apply concrete measures to supervise the implementation of compulsory home quarantine or risk ruining efforts to battle severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a DPP lawmaker has said.

"The home-quarantine measure could lead to a loophole in the country's all-out effort to halt the spread of SARS when up to 80 percent of those quarantined do not stay indoors," said Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津).

Yeh, who issued the warning on the same day as the announcement by the Legislative Yuan of special anti-SARS regulation on Friday, warned of a lack of a public precautions against the disease.

Claiming that she had received a number of complaints from the public, the lawmaker said that the compulsory home quarantine had not been properly carried out.

"The callers said many of those in quarantine are, in fact, staying out and even taking children to and from school every day," Yeh told reporters.

Over 10,000 persons have been assigned to home quarantine, said deputy director of the Department of Health Lee Lung-teng (李龍騰) in a Cabinet meeting on Friday.

Yeh urged the government to improve its quarantine policy and form an efficient network for covering those isolated at home.

As part of an effort to combat the virulent SARS infection, the government announced a 10-day compulsory quarantine for travelers returning from infected areas earlier this week.

Yeh said the government should do more than just issue an advice notice.

"Coverage of the daily routine of quarantined people is needed so they can effectively carry out their quarantine order."

Yeh, referring to quarantine measures in Singapore, advised the government to enhance its quarantine supervision using electronic tracers.

"Since a NT$50 billion fund is soon to be made available for the nation's anti-SARS fight, a purchase of similar electronic tracers to the ones used by the Singaporean government to monitor quarantined people is possible," she said.

For those who still try to dodge quarantine orders, Yeh added, an enforced collective quarantine should be considered.

"The country needs to take tougher action against those putting the public in danger of contracting the epidemic," she said.

TSU legislative caucus convener Chien Lin Whei-jun (錢林慧君) agreed with Yeh's remarks on home quarentine.

"People must show self-restraint and obey the government's instructions in order to contain SARS," Chien Lin said yesterday.

The government needs to look at collective quarantines to complement the deficiency of home quarantines, she added.

Chien Lin, formerly a pharmacologist, said that home-quarantine supervisions must embrace a consultant mechanism.

"It is useful to provide the quarantined with access to consultants as the consultations will help them adjust to the quarentine," she said.

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