SARS: HK DOCTORS SCREEN HOME-BOUND PINAYSManila, April 13, 2003 -- The Philippine consulate in Hong Kong has hired doctors to check any Filipino domestic helpers returning to the country for cases of SARS. "Our countrymen who are planning to return can first be examined by the Filipino doctors that were hired by our consulate. If found to possibly be infected, they would probably not be allowed to leave Hong Kong, " said presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye. He stressed that Arroyo was not barring Filipinos from coming back home, but that she was appealing to their "sense of nationalism" to take precautions. On Saturday Philippine airport authorities went on alert to prepare for thousands of Filipino workers who are expected to return for Easter vacations from SARS-plagued Hong Kong. Quarantine centers have been established and those returning will have to answer a health questionnaire before they disembark from their planes. In the past month SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, has killed 36 people in Hong Kong and infected more than 1,100, reportedly including several Filipinos who make up the majority of the estimated 240,000 domestic work force in Hong Kong. Filipinos, who are largely Christians, traditionally mark the Easter holidays by returning to their hometowns, even travelling home from abroad. The government SARS task force meanwhile confirmed Sunday that it has five cases of people under observation for possible infection with SARS. Arroyo has said an unidentified 64-year-old patient who splits his time between Hong Kong and the Philippines had exhibited symptoms of the disease and has been admitted to hospital. Although he had since recovered, Arroyo ordered him confined for another week. The disease has infected about 3,200 and killed at least 126 people in about 30 countries worldwide, according to an AFP count based on reports from national health offices.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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