Sun, May 11, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Yu worried over possible exodus

GETTING OUT The premier fears other counties may follow the US' lead in authorizing the voluntary departure of official staff, a move that could harm Taiwan's global image

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

As the US Department of State has authorized the voluntary departure of staff working at US representative offices in Taiwan as a precautionary measure due to the SARS situation, Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday said that he suspects other countries might follow suit.

"The foreign ministry will continue to negotiate with foreign representative offices here and provide them with the latest information on SARS and how we've been handling the situation," Yu said. "For the sake of the health of all the people and the image of the entire nation, we have to work together and win this war."

Yu made the remarks yesterday afternoon during a press conference held after his meeting with Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Taipei County Commissioner Su Chen-chang (蘇貞昌), Taoyuan County Commissioner Chu Li-lung (朱立倫) and Cabinet officials.

The three counties and cities combined have reported 80 percent of the nation's total probably SARS cases and 60 percent of suspected SARS cases.

Amid calls for sealing off the entire Taipei City in a bid to restrain the spread of SARS, Yu said that he does not see the necessity of doing so at this moment.

"If we'll be able to restrain the spread of the outbreak, there's only 14 days of inconvenience," Yu said. "It might take 28 days or even longer if the public doesn't cooperate."

The Cabinet yesterday, however, proposed that the city consider setting up check points in Wanhua District to take the temperature of those leaving the area.

Yu yesterday also ruled out again the necessity of declaring an emergency to battle the SARS outbreak.

"I don't see such a necessity because the legislature has already passed a special regulation stipulating relief and prevention measures against the epidemic," Yu said. "It's designed to make up for the shortcomings of the Communicable Disease Prevention Law (傳染病防治法)." As the law stands, 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. The bill also stipulates that the government must compensate nurses who give their lives fighting the epidemic.

During yesterday's three-hour closed-door meeting, participants reached a consensus to adopt six measures to jointly battle the virus.

In addition to fully implementing the home-quarantine policy, local chiefs pledged to punish local officials and their supervisors if they implement the home-quarantine measure improperly.

To safeguard the health of community people, local chiefs also pledged to form community combat squads led by borough and village wardens.

Local officials also called on the public to report to health authorities about those evading home-quarantine orders and earn a chance of a NT$10,000 reward.

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