Asean takes joint stand to battle SARS


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 27 Apr 2003

Reports by FOONG PEK YEE, AUDREY EDWARDS, SUSAN TAM and LEONG SHEN-LI

KUALA LUMPUR: The Asean + 3 Health Ministers Special Meeting on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has taken a joint stand, including mandatory screening of individuals before they leave affected countries and the barring of suspected and probable cases from travelling. 

The pre-departure screening would be carried out on passengers at airports, ports and land entry points for international travel.  

Relevant authorities would be required to collaborate with healthcare workers to ensure stringent screening.  

The meeting also recommended that in-flight management of suspected SARS cases who develop symptoms while on board should also be instituted. 

It also proposed to make it mandatory for travellers from affected countries to fill up SARS health declaration forms and for a standard notification for all 13 countries, which should be eventually extended to all countries in the world.  

The ministers also asked the World Health Organisation (WHO) for a reclassification and advisory of affected countries.  

These measures were among those spelt out in a joint statement here yesterday to combat the killer disease and protect their populations. Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng read out the statement at a press conference. 

Other measures include: 

  • URGING the heads of government of Asean + 3 to provide adequate resources for their health ministers to respond effectively to the epidemic. The meeting also called on other countries outside Asean to show similar resolve and commitment to eradicating SARS and other infectious diseases; 

  • APPOINTING a contact point in every country for routine exchange of information and to set up a “hotline” to facilitate communication in an emergency; 

  • ADVOCATING an active campaign for non-discrimination towards people coming from affected areas or people with symptoms of SARS, regardless of nationality and social status; and 

  • PROMPT notification of suspect and probable cases among countries to ensure rapid contact tracing, isolation and quarantine. 

    The statement would be forwarded for endorsement during the Asean + 3 Heads of Government Summit in Bangkok on Tuesday. 

    It was also decided that the Asean Expert Group on Communicable Diseases (under the Asean Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development) would collaborate with focal points in China, Japan and South Korea to develop a work plan to ensure full implementation of decisions made during the meeting. 

    “We hope that the collaboration today will be undertaken by other regions under the WHO to combat not only SARS but set up an infrastructure for world co-operation and intensive collaboration against SARS and other new pathogens,” said Chua. 

    When asked later as to who would foot the bill if Malaysians found to be suspected SARS cases were stranded in other countries, Chua said their employers would have to take care of the bill.  

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