Thu, May 08, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Epidemic will be beaten, Cabinet says

HAVE FAITH Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung said that the disease can and will be brought under control and called on people to cooperate with government measures

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Executive Yuan says that the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, can be brought under control completely by the end of the month but that the number of SARS patients might be as high as 800 by the time the epidemic reaches its peak.

"If we don't see any mass transmission as serious as that in Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital and Jen Chi Hospital, we reckon that the outbreak will be entirely brought under control by the end of May," Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said.

Lin made the remarks yesterday morning during a press conference held after the weekly closed-door Cabinet meeting.

According to Lin, Singapore -- with a population of 2 million -- has reported 200 SARS patients during its three waves of mass transmission inside medical institutions. Hong Kong, with a population of 6 million, has reported a total of 1,600 SARS patients.

"If we adopt similar prevention measures, we project the number of SARS patients, both probable and suspected cases, might reach 800 at the peak of the outbreak," Lin said.

The focus now will be on strengthening the home-quarantine policy and fully implementing the entry-control measures to prevent the possibility of community transmission, Lin said.

"We've been drawing up a countermeasures for the worst case scenario of community transmission to ensure there is sufficient medical manpower, sufficient medical supplies and sufficient medical facilities," he said.

Responding criticisms that the government lacks epidemic prevention mechanisms, Lin said that since the SARS outbreak began in March, the Cabinet has mapped out five response guidelines.

"They serve as the rule of thumb for the Cabinet's SARS response committee," Lin said. "Adjustments have been made accordingly as the situation changes."

The committee -- ?chaired by Premier Yu Shyi-kun with Vice Premier Lin Hsin-i (林信義) and former director-general of the health department, Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) as co-chairs -- encompasses nine task teams.

The nine teams are: entry and departure control, home quarantine, prevention control, laws and budget, economy and industry, supervision, information release, logistics control and integration of national defense resources.

The cross-ministry committee has been meeting daily since April 30 to discuss the impact of the disease and making public government policies and SARS updates.

Lin called on the public to have faith in the government and cooperate with the its initiatives.

"SARS is not a formidable enemy. What is really terrifying is the fragility of a person's soul," Lin said. "We should have faith, compassion and determination in the face of the challenge. We should also take good care of ourselves and respect others."

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