Mon, Aug 04, 2003 - Page 4 News List

SARS-czar Lee Ming-liang speaks in the US

CNA , WASHINGTON

Former Department of Health director-general and SARS-czar Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), arrived in Washington on Friday to an overwhelming welcome by members of the Taiwanese communities in the eastern US.

Lee met with members of the Taiwan Benevolence Association in Washington on Saturday at a discussion that recapped the nation's ordeals and experiences in its battle to contain SARS between April and June.

Lee, who was appointed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as chief of the SARS Prevention and Relief Committee, said SARS has been contained in Taiwan, but added that the war against the potentially-deadly disease may not be over, as it could resurface at anytime and anywhere.

Noting that he does not have confidence in the information on the SARS epidemic and prevention from China, Lee said Taiwan should pronouce Taiwan as "SARS free" or "SARS safe" only after the disease has been completely rooted from China once and for all.

Lee, who is in Washington for a week-long visit, is scheduled to deliver a speech at the UN Correspondents Association on Wednesday on Taiwan's SARS-fighting experience in his capacity as a Tzu Chi University professor and international public-health expert.

During his stay in Washington, Lee will meet with officials from the US Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to convey the government's gratitude to the US for its timely assistance in helping the country contain SARS.

Lee is also scheduled to take part in a symposium on public-health issues to be sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Lee received a standing ovation Saturday when he finished his speech to the Taiwan Benevolence Association members.

He said the people of Taiwan had passed through a difficult and unforgettable ordeal during the most trying two months between May 7 and July 5 after he was appointed as the head of the SARS Prevention and Relief Committee.

He recalled that he made an announcement on May 24 in which he told people that they could resume their normal lives from that day. He said that the announcement was a "big gamble" when the stakes were high -- a time when people were losing faith, the business sector was in the doldrums, shops and restaurants were closed, streets were deserted, and the SARS outbreak was showing little signs of abating.

Lee suggested that people nationwide receive influenza vaccine shots beginning in October to lower the risk of flu transmission as one of the ways of preventing the reemergence of SARS.

Lee also said that he does not think it is a good idea that Taiwan refer to SARS as "Chinese pneumonia."

He said that although calling SARS the "Chinese pneumonia" may help the Taiwanese vent their anger with China for under-reporting the epidemic situation, Taiwanese of Chinese origin living in non-Chinese societies would inevitably suffer in the end.

He recalled how one day when he was on a train from Baltimore at a time when the SARS outbreak in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong was making headlines around the world, a young American girl sitting not far from him stared at him nervously and said to her mother: "Look at that Chinese man, I wonder if he has SARS."

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