Tue, May 20, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwanese representative in Tokyo offers apologies for sick doctor's visit

CNA , TOKYO AND TAIPEI

Taiwan's representative to Tokyo, Lo Fu-chuan (羅福全), apologized to Japan yesterday for causing concern in connection with the visit of a Taiwanese doctor who returned home with possible symptoms of SARS.

Lo offered the apology during a meeting with Masaji Takahashi, president of the Japanese Interchange Association.

Lo said the government regrets the disturbance brought to the Japanese people by the Taipei Mackay Memorial Hospital doctor who visited Japan from May 8 to 13 and has since been listed as a probable SARS patient.

"We feel very sorry for the incident, " Lo told Takahashi. "We have since tightened enforcement of our quarantine regime to stem any possible cross-border SARS transmissions."

Takahashi said it was regrettable that the doctor, who presumably had contact with probable or suspected SARS patients, had failed to wait 10 days before making a non-essential trip to Japan.

Worse still, Takahashi said, the doctor didn't follow Japan's SARS-prevention rules which require foreign visitors to contact Japanese health authorities in case they develop a fever or other SARS-like symptoms.

Takahashi said the doctor's irresponsible move has caused misgivings among Japanese people.

He claimed that although both the Japanese central and local governments have mobilized many workers to disinfect areas where the doctor visited, business activities in certain areas have yet to return to normal.

On behalf of the Japanese government, Takahashi urged Taiwan to dissuade those who have had contact with suspected SARS patients within 10 days, particularly health-care workers, from visiting Japan.

Taiwan has furnished Japan with daily updates about its SARS situation since May 16.

"We hope this information service will continue and even further expand," Takahashi said.

Officials from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare were present at the meeting.

Lo assured them that the government will strengthen exchange of SARS information with Japan and step up enforcement of all quarantine measures.

Lo's apology followed a written statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Saturday, saying it sincerely regretted the disturbance caused by the doctor's visit.

Lo told reporters after meeting that the incident will not affect Japan's support for Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Organization's assembly as an observer because the two events are unconnected.

Faced with criticism that the foreign ministry should not have offered the apology to Japan since it remains unclear who should be responsible for the incident, spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦) said yesterday that the ministry's apology only aims at the disturbance brought to the Japanese people, rather than taking responsibility for the doctor's irresponsible behavior.

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