Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Military to help anti-SARS effort

INTERVENTION The president has delegated a number of virus-prevention tasks to army units, paving the way for greater national involvement in the war against SARS

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has ordered the military and police to do everything in their power to assist with and enforce measures to combat severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), when necessary.

Chen gave the order during a second "anti-SARS summit" of senior government officials that he convened at 9pm Thursday to discuss how to contain community transmissions of the disease.

"Once the control of an infected area has been ordered, military police units shall assist the police force," the president said during the meeting.

"If protests could delay the treatment and quarantine of SARS cases, the police must brush aside such disruptions immediately," he said.

Chen's order came as central and local governments face a critical challenge -- preventing "community transmissions," or mass infections occurring outside of contained environments.

In attendance at Thursday's meeting were Government Information Office Director-General Arthur Iap (葉國興), Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Premier Yu Shyi-kun.

Iap's participation was seen as important as the GIO has taken a more pro-active stance in publicizing the government's efforts to raise public's awareness against the disease and to publicize its battle against SARS internationally.

The agency has been providing local TV stations with videotapes featuring medical experts' advice on countering SARS and printing information pamphlets.

To clarify the government's countermeasures, the president identified 10 critical points after listening to a brief by Yu. One set of points focused on military cooperation, another on medical integration and a third on immigration and police enforcement.

On the role of the military, Chen said that military forces shall provide a back-up role to assist the Executive Yuan in establishing four regional-based specialized SARS hospitals.

Military barracks shall be made available for quarantine use and spare military barracks should be readied by the Ministry of the Interior to accommodate homeless people, especially those outside Taipei City and County.

Moving homeless out of more populated areas is in reaction to concerns raised in the media recently that homeless people could become transmissions agents.

As for medical integration, Chen called for health-care resources of the country, including military research departments, to cooperate with the Center for Disease Control and develop an integrated medical attack plan, with a focus on finding a vaccine.

"Chemical corps, engineering corps and rear-service units should reorganize as soon as possible in support of disinfecting efforts by the local governments," the president said.

Chen asked that the Bureau of Immigration immediately notify the National Police Administration and local police stations to implement quarantine measures against people returning home from SARS-affected areas overseas who fail to truthfully fill out the "SARS prevention investigation form."

Chen also asked officials to contact civic groups to enlist their help in telephoning and monitoring people who have been placed under home quarantine.

"Any violations should be reported to the police and fines will be imposed. Local police forces should assist with the tally of homeless people and the taking of their temperature," Chen said.

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