Mon, May 19, 2003 - Page 4 News List

TSU caucus says travel ban too late

SLOW TO ACT The TSU legislative caucus convener Chien Lin Whei-jun criticized the DPP administration, saying that even Japan was quicker to act than Taipei

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A TSU legislator slammed the government for "acting weak when it comes to issues concerning China," and said that the government's decision-making attitude in banning entry of travelers from China and visa versa as a measure to contain the SARS epidemic was too late.

On April 24, the Executive Yuan approved a proposal to ban entry to Taiwan by certain travelers from China. In addition to the halting of the "small three links" between Lienchiang County and China's Fujian Province effective March 31, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) last Friday moved to temporarily suspend the links between Kinmen and the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Fuzhou in a bid to prevent the spread of SARS from China.

TSU legislative caucus convener Chien Lin Whei-jun (錢林慧君) however said that the DPP administration should have taken much swifter action after the outbreak of SARS cases at Hong Kong's Amoy Garden complex by implementing prevention and control measures as early as the beginning of March.

Given that the atypical pneumonia is believed to have first surfaced in Guangdong Province last November, Chien Lin added that the government should have implemented measures monitoring and restricting travel between Taiwan and affected areas starting in early March as well.

"The DPP administration harbors too many qualms when it comes to making decisions concerning China," said Chien Lin.

She also said the government's lax reaction to making the decision was the result of placing politics above professional considerations.

"If the government, in view of the traces of SARS in Hong Kong, had been adequately alarmed by the disease and quickly imposed travel restrictions in early March, then the SARS situation in Taiwan wouldn't have escalated to the extent that it has," Chien Lin said.

A resident of the Amoy Garden complex, one of the most severely SARS-hit areas in Hong Kong, had spread the disease to his 56-year-old brother living in Taichung when he visited Taiwan on March 26 for Tomb-Sweeping Day.

A woman, identified only by her surname, Tsao, became infected with the SARS virus in late March and was believed to have shared the same train with the Amoy Garden complex resident who was also on the train.

Tsao and her husband fell ill on April 3 and eventually went to Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital for treatment on April 9 and they have since been branded "superspreaders."

To provide a basis for comparison, Chien Lin said that the Japanese government had immediately issued a warning in March advising its public to reconsider contact with people from areas affected by the outbreak -- specifically Hong Kong and China.

"At a time like this when Taiwan is facing the SARS threat which originated in China, the government's policy should be directed at protecting the health and lives of the Taiwanese public regardless of political concerns," Chien Lin said.

Chien Lin said that in March the TSU legislative caucus had suggested that government immediately impose travel restrictions on China and Hong Kong, but the MAC, citing reasons of human sympathy and morality in view of Tomb Sweeping Day during which people cross the Taiwan Strait to pay their respect to ancestors, was unwilling to take the suggestion into consideration at that time.

The suggestion didn't come through due to oppostition from both the KMT and the PFP legislative caucuses, Chien Lin added.

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