Thu, May 15, 2003 - Page 4 News List

WHO says SARS situation is getting worse

AP , TAIPEI AND GENEVA

As the Taipei City Government stepped up efforts to control the spread of SARS, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman expressed concern that the situation in the country was worsening.

"Taiwan is going in the opposite direction," Peter Cordingley said in Geneva on Tuesday, adding that he was puzzled by the nation's SARS outbreaks in hospitals.

"By and large, everybody has now learned how to control their hospital environment, but mistakes are possibly still happening in Taiwan," Cordingley said.

Cordingley's remark appeared to refer to the suspected SARS transmission at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Hospital, where more than a hundred members of staff have been quarantined, some with SARS symptoms.

In Taipei, authorities yesterday began house-to-house checks for SARS quarantine breakers and ordered night-spot workers to wear masks.

"Because we are afraid that some people will go out at night, we will begin phoning people in quarantine between 8pm and midnight tonight," Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said.

Police would be mobilized to visit quarantined people's homes to make sure they were in, Ma said.

Ninety-four people have been fined for breaking quarantine, the Ministry of Interior said. Quarantine breakers are subject to fines of up to NT$300,000.

Train passengers who failed to wear masks throughout their journeys now face fines of up to NT$6,000, officials said.

The city government has also ordered restaurant and nightclub employees to wear masks.

It was not clear if there would be a penalty for those who don't comply.

Meanwhile, a 90-member military chemical unit moved in to disinfect Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital, which was sealed off on April 24 after a SARS outbreak and gradually evacuated in the following weeks. Officials want to turn Hoping Hospital into the city's first SARS-only hospital.

As the majority of SARS infections in the country seem to be from hospitals, Department of Health Director-General Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) urged patients' relatives to cut back on hospital visits.

Health officials also tried yesterday to explain discrepancies between official figures released domestically and those published by the WHO.

"We e-mail our data to the WHO, but because of the time difference, it takes a while for them to announce our figures," said Center for Disease Control Director-General Chen Tzay-chinn (陳再晉).

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