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Health Ministry should adopt pro-active measures to deal with the SARS threat as medical practitioners are very worried about the country's unpreparedness to deal with any SARS outbreak


Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Thursday): Medical practitioners, both in public and private services, have expressed to me their great worry about the country's state of unpreparedness to deal with any SARS outbreak, despite all the "big talk" by the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng about the success of the Health Ministry's SARS "surveillance" measures.

Chua's response to the report in yesterday's papers about the 55 Malaysians among 2,000 people being traced by health authorities worldwide after it was discovered they had stayed at Metropole Hotel in Mongkok, located in Waterloo Road Kowloon, where the atypical pneumonia outbreak was believed to have originated, does not inspire confidence.

In the first instance, Chua seems to hearing about the case of the 55 Malaysians for the first time, as indicated by his comments to reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday that the Health Ministry was tracing the 55 Malaysians and that "Once they are found, they will be referred to the nearest hospital immediately".

If Chua had been pro-active and not reactive, he should have been able to give a report on the progress which has been made by the Health Ministry to trace and screen the 55 Malaysians for SARS, as the first list of the 55 Malaysians, including the three Malaysians who stayed on the 9th floor of the hotel which was the "ground zero" of the SARS outbreak, had been sent to the Health Ministry from Hong Kong last Friday while the full list by Monday.

In a global epidemic of such rapid spread of the SARS infection, the failure of the Health Ministry to act on the first list of 55 Malaysians for one whole week and the full list for four days is completely unacceptable.

It would appear that if there had been no mass media report about the 55 Malaysians among the 2,000 people whom the health authorities worldwide wanted to trace, Chua would continue to be blissfully ignorant about the matter, when he should have been the first to inform Parliament and the country about the list of 55 Malaysians!

Medical and health workers are worried about the state of preparedness of the country to face any SARS outbreak because of the failure of the health authorities to learn from the mistakes of past epidemics, and in particular, the continuing mishandling of the worst dengue epidemic in the nation's history which is still raging unchecked, causing more and more dengue cases and fatalities.

At a time when a cough or a sneeze could be as terrifying as bombs and terrorists, the Health Minister should be seen to be adopting pro-active measures to inspire confidence about the country's preparedness to face any SARS outbreak.

The latest World Health Organisation (WHO) bulletin on SARS statistics worldwide are as follows:
 

Cumulative Number of Reported Cases (SARS)

 

From: 1 Feb 2003 To: 27 Mar 2003, 17:30 GMT+1

Country

Cumulative number of case(s)

Number of deaths

Local transmission*

Canada

 28

 3

 Yes

China

806

34

 Yes

China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region 

 367

 10**

 Yes

China, Taiwan

 6

 0

 Yes

France

 1

 0

 None

Germany

 4

 0

 None

Italy

 2

 0

 None

Republic of Ireland

 2

 0

 None

Romania

 3

 0

 None

Singapore

 78

 2

 Yes

Switzerland

 2

 0

 To be determined

Thailand

 3

 0

 None

United Kingdom

 3

 0

 None

United States

 45

 0

 To be determined

Viet Nam

 58

 4

 Yes

Total

1408

53

 

Notes:
Cumulative number of cases includes number of deaths.


I have just received an email from a Malaysian who is quarantined in Taipei because she was on a flight to Taipei via Hong Kong because on board were four passengers from Beijing who were infected by SARS.

My flight is not direct from KL to Taipei, I stop over in Hong Kong and flying from HK to Taipei using CX510 at 3.15pm on 21 March. I was the only Malaysian aboard with other 37 foreigners.

"I have reported to their Department of Health. They want me to observe  myself for another week before declared free from SARS. According to them, if I have fever, straightaway go to one of the listed hospitals, tell them my flight. No more clinic here or there

"Briefly, it happened like this: seven Taiwanese workers of a construction company went to Beijing on 15 Marchvia CA112. This CA112 from HK to Beijing has been announced by Hong Kong Health department as SARS  infected area on 26 March as one of the passenger visited his SARS friend in HK Hospital before went on board. Then, 6 of the 7 Taiwanese returned from Beijing via HK to Taipei on 21 March and 3 of them infected SARS. So, the flight from Beijing to HK (CA111) and from HK to Taipei CX510 became dangerous flights. All the passengers need to report to DOH because we have contacted SARS patients.Today, they will issue a 'stay-at-home quarantine notice' to me according to the news."

(28/3/2003)


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman