Penghu told to remain open
Vice Minister of the Interior Hsu Ying-shen (許應深) yesterday rebuffed the Penghu County Government's plan to seal itself off to shield the county from SARS. As Kinmen was prevented from closing itself off, Hsu said Penghu cannot seal off its islets, including Wangan, Chimei and Chipei. Hsu said the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications have been discussing how to transport SARS patients on offshore islands to Taiwan by helicopter in order to provide them with better treatment. As both ministries are still working on how to overcome the technical difficulties of installing isolation wards in the helicopters, Hsu said that the helicopters will not be ready for use until Tuesday at the earliest.
Bird found in South Korea
An endangered black-faced spoonbill observed by Taiwanese conservationists in 1999 was discovered by their counterparts in South Korea on Wednesday. According to Chiang Kuen-dar (江昆達), secretary-general of the Wild Bird Federation Taiwan, the spoonbill tagged T13 was discovered by bird-watchers with the South Korean BFS Survey Team on an islet named U-do. According to a South Korean conservationist, the spoonbill, named Tai-tai, has matured. "The news was inspiring because the botulism tragedy early this year in southern Taiwan revealed that the wintering habitats for the endangered bird were in peril," Chiang said. From last October to last month, Chiang said, more than 700 spoonbills spent their winter in the estuary of Tsengwen River in southern Taiwan. The botulism tragedy claimed one-tenth of those who wintered in Taiwan. The global population of the bird has fallen below 1,000.
Paal heading back to work
American Institute in Taiwan Director Douglas Paal , who is currently in Washington for home consultation, is set to return to Taiwan next Thursday. Paal said on Thursday that he has kept abreast of the SARS situation in the country and that he is aware the disease has yet to be contained. But he added that he must return to his post in Taiwan because there is work to be done. Paal took part in a seminar Wednesday on the strategic future of China under the new leadership that was sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. Health concerns led the the US State Department on May 9 to authorize all non-essential staff and the dependents of all staff at the Taipei and Kaohsiung AIT offices to leave Taiwan voluntarily until the situation here improves.
Portable units developed
The world's leading medical assistance company said yesterday that it has developed three portable capsules to transport SARS patients, one of which will shortly be sent to Taiwan. Officials from the Taiwan branch of International SOS said that the three portable isolation units (PIUs) have completed tests in Singapore and added that the capsule sent to Taiwan will have equipment to filter the air to ensure that no workers will be infected with SARS during the transportation process. The company had not planned to transport contagious patients at first, but in view of the threat from SARS, it mapped out a comprehensive plan to help transport SARS patients by air from the country's outlying islands to Taiwan proper.