Painting China as a "black-hole in the global effort to prevent avian flu," President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday called on Beijing to make transparent its bird flu statistics.
Chen also instructed concerned government agencies to study the possibility of banning the killing of live poultry at traditional wet markets to reduce the chances for human contact with domesticated birds.
"One of the biggest problems of the nation's bird flu prevention efforts is that we cannot obtain immediate and accurate information from China," Chen said.
"In addition to more closely monitoring China's situation and aggressively gathering information, I'm calling on the international community to pressure Beijing to make its information more transparent to prevent the condition from getting out of hand," he said.
Chen made the remarks after chairing the third round of a high-level National Security Council (NSC) meeting held to discuss the government's efforts to prevent a possible outbreak of avian flu.
Chen gave 10-point instructions on the fight against the spread of bird flu after hearing reports from the heads of the NSC, Council of Agriculture, Department of Health and Coast Guard Administration.
Statistics provided by the NSC showed that the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu has taken 96 lives around the world, with 42 in Vietnam, 20 in Indonesia, 14 in Thailand and 10 in China.
Because of Taiwan's unique geographical character, Chen said he would like concerned government agencies to guard more strictly the nation's ports of entry, especially against bird smuggling from China, illegal trespassing by Chinese fishing boats, and continue health screenings in Kinmen and Matsu.
Last October, the H5N1 strain of bird flu was found in birds being smuggled from China into Taichung harbor.
Since Taiwan Urbani Foundation has visited Hong Kong, Guangdong, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to gather first-hand information on the disease, Chen said that the government must work with the foundation to establish a long-term direct dialogue mechanism with Beijing to better prevent the spread of the disease.
To prevail in the battle against bird flu, Chen said it is very important to map out a solid strategy and turn it into standard operating procedures.
Chen also stressed the importance of storing an adequate amount of Tamiflu, the drug believed to be effective in combating avian flu. The government must also follow the production and research plan proposed by Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) in last year's APEC meeting.
If there is an outbreak of bird flu, Chen said that both the central and local governments must stringently carry out the prevention plan and guard against negligence or delays.
Meanwhile, Chen yesterday received Kiwanis International president Steve Siemens, who came to Taiwan for the organization's 31st annual Asia-Pacific convention, which is scheduled to open in Kaohsiung tomorrow.
Chen said that he was proud to play a part in assisting the Kiwanis in holding its convention in Taipei in 2001, when he served as city the mayor.