Fri, May 09, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Lawmaker warns of travelers who flout SARS measures

LOOPHOLE The DPP legislator says many travelers from China are rerouting their flights through Tokyo to avoid the 10-day quarantine

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A ruling DPP lawmaker yesterday warned that some travelers coming from China were changing their itineraries and rerouting their flights so they could evade the mandatory 10-day quarantine -- a preventive measure put in place by the government to combat severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

"Instead of a stopover at Hong Kong, some passengers from China have been found changing their flight plans and making a transit stop in Japan. The change is made to avoid a 10-day compulsory quarantine policy declared last month for travelers returning from infected areas of China and Hong Kong," said Tang Bi-a (唐碧娥) at a news conference.

Tang added that these people are also purposely omitting their travel record in China or Hong Kong in the required investigation forms.

"They successfully escape the quarantine measure by flying home via Japan. The false travel record reports worsen the real effect of the quarantine policy that was set up for an all-out containment of the emerging epidemic," Tang said.

Tang said she became aware of the the problem after receiving a number of complaints from her constituents.

Compared to the usual itinerary plan via Hong Kong, Tang said the alternative stopover in Japan was even more economical as passengers would save around NT$4,000 for ticket fare.

"The cheaper flights enable people to avoid the forced quarantine, and this engenders a big risk to the government's effort to battle the epidemic," she said.

According to Tang, SARS prevention measures conducted by Japanese authorities achieves little in assessing if travelers coming to Taiwan have the disease.

"The Japanese authorities merely ask travelers from high-risk infected areas to fill out health forms and get their temperature checked," Tang said.

The brief inquiry conducted at airports doesn't help since SARS has been found to have a maximum 14-day incubation period before the infected fall ill.

Tang urged the public to realize that every member of society shares a responsibility to ensure that the efforts against the disease are successful.

In addition, she called on authorities to carry out a thorough check on official seals stamped on individual passengers' passports to make sure that those who have been to China and other infected areas honestly report their travel record.

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