Manila, April 5, 2003 -- Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit yesterday asked
private and government hospitals to set up isolation rooms for possible
cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Dayrit, SARS management chief, said the DOH will brief private and
government hospitals on clinical guidelines in detecting and handling the

Dayrit also appealed to the public not to believe text or e-mail messages
that certain hospitals had confirmed SARS cases. These messages, Dayrit
said, are being sent to destroy the reputation of some hospitals.

Dayrit said since March 17, the DOH has received 26 suspected SARS cases,
all of which tested negative.

The latest World Health Organization (WHO) report states that 2,270 people
have contracted SARS, with 79 deaths.

President Arroyo appointed national security adviser Roilo Golez as adviser
to the SARS management team.

"We must not wait until our countrymen are actually infected before we take
any actions," she cautioned. "I assure our people that we have the
expertise and enough resources in our public health system to adequately
manage any possible SARS case."

The DOH has already put in place several measures to strengthen the
country's defense against the disease. They include:

* Rapid identification, isolation and management of suspected SARS cases in

* Prevention of SARS entry into the country and spread of possible cases
through a quarantine system at ports of entry.

* Setting up of a communications system with 24-hour hotlines that will not
only manage the flow of vital information to the public but handle public
anxiety as well.

The San Lazaro Hospital and Research Institute of Tropical Medicine have
also been directed to oversee hospitalization needs in case of an outbreak
in the country.

The Coast Guard said it has two US-trained specialists who will assist in
conducting emergency procedures for ship passengers showing symptoms of the
killer ailment.

The Chinese government denied reports that the SARS situation in that
country is already grave, stressing that Beijing is fully capable of
controlling the killer disease.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Manila assured the safety of
foreigners in China.

"The news spread by some western media that the epidemic situation in China
is grave is purely fanfare," the statement said.

The WHO has already warned travelers to avoid Guangdong as well as Hong Kong.

The Chinese claimed the deadly virus, discovered in Guangdong province last
year, has been brought under full control.

But bowing to international pressure, China admitted that it had 1,190
suspected SARS cases and 48 deaths instead of the 806 cases and 34 deaths
it had previously acknowledged.

Cases were reported in Guangxi, Hunan, Sichuan and Shanghai province for
the first time.

There have also been serious outbreaks in, Singapore, Vietnam and Canada.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were
85 suspect cases in 27 states, the highest number (19) being in California.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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