The Ministry of National Defense yesterday suspended leave for all service members and cadets of military academies and ordered them to remain in barracks amid the outbreak of SARS.
The ministry said the suspension is effective immediately and that the timing for resuming leave will depend on the development of the SARS epidemic. It added that all soldiers who are on leave should return to their barracks immediately.
The ban is yet another emergency step adopted by the military since Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) announced on April 25 that all commanding officers of various military barracks nationwide, political warfare department chiefs, as well as presidents and vice presidents of armed forces hospitals should remain on duty around the clock.
Ministry officials said the temporary-leave ban is necessary to protect all service members' health, maintain combat strength, support SARS prevention operations and stem any possible outbreak inside military complexes.
The move was taken after an officer responsible for security at President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) official residence and a private at a military school in Tamsui were hospitalized after displaying SARS-like symptoms.
Earlier in the day, Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), vice chairman of the Cabinet-level SARS Control and Relief Committee and top coordinator of the nationwide campaign against SARS, said that leave for all officers and men as well as military academy cadets should be suspended and that they should remain in barracks for two weeks.
"The suspension of leave may be extended further, if necessary," he added.
Lee said the new measure is part of the nation's stepped-up efforts to contain the further spread of the potentially fatal contagion.
He said all officers and soldiers stationed on Kinmen and Matsu are also banned from making non-essential trips to Taiwan for the time being.
Lee said the coming two weeks will be a critical period in the nation's SARS prevention drive.