Sun, May 18, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Singapore remains on the alert despite beating SARS

DPA , SINGAPORE

Singapore, on the brink of being struck off the World Health Organization's (WHO) list of SARS-hit regions, is not slackening in its battle to remain free of the virus, officials said yesterday.

Surgical masks will be distributed along with thermometers to nearly 1.1 million households by next month, said Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng.

The city-state has been free of any new cases since April 27, prompting WHO spokesmen to say it could be declared SARS-free today.

At that point the city-state will have gone 20 days without a new infection, covering two incubation periods for the disease.

Doctors are convinced it is influenza, not the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), that sent temperatures up at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said Friday night physicians were all but certain the 44 IMH staff and patients sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) were not afflicted with the virus that has claimed 28 lives here out of 205 cases.

Even if Singapore is struck from the WHO list, the city-state will remain on high alert because the disease can sneak in so easily, through just one person.

To keep people informed about all aspects of the disease, a new television channel dedicated entirely to SARS will start on Wednesday in a first-time partnership between three media rivals -- Media Corporation of Singapore, StarHub Cable Vision and Singapore Press Holdings.

Of the 32 IMH patients and 12 staff, 21 have so far tested negative for the SARS virus, the Health Ministry said in its latest update.

"I'm very optimistic we'll make the Sunday deadline," said Dr. Leo Yee Sin, clinical director of the Communicable Disease Centre at TTSH.

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