SARS: 5 PINAYS LEAVE HK HOSPITAL

Manila, April 15, 2003 (Malaya)  The Department of Labor announced that 
five of six Filipino women infected with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 
(SARS) in Hong Kong were discharged yesterday from the hospital.

The 7th Filipina victim, who is married to a Chinese national, remains in 
the hospital but is said to be on her way to recovery.

So far 25 Filipinos have contracted SARS, nine of them working in Singapore 
and the rest in Hong Kong.

President Arroyo yesterday described criticisms, including the recent 
report from the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), that the 
Philippines is among the least prepared to deal with SARS, as "unfair 
putdowns."

"I would like to tell the world again that we're doing our best to keep the 
Philippines SARS-free... We have some sectors who're mocking us because 
we're not world class (but) how come we're SARS-free?" she said.

The PERC ranked the Philippines 7th among 12 Asian countries on their 
capability to deal with a possible SARS outbreak.

The survey added that Singapore, China and Hong Kong are the best-prepared 
countries in Asia.

Arroyo said she has directed the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office 
(PCSO) to help fund the P15 million sought by the Research Institute of 
Tropical Medicine (RITM) to improve the existing contingencies against SARS.

The President noted that she had so far allocated more than P1 billion in 
efforts to combat SARS.

She inspected the RITM office in Alabang yesterday to check the 
preparations made by the agency.

Arroyo received 10,000 masks from the Federation of Filipino-Chinese 
Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

She also lauded the staff of the RITM and the San Lazaro Hospital for their 
vigilance against the spread of SARS.

Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said the confirmatory laboratory test of the 
blood sample from the first probable case in the country will be known in 
two to four weeks.

At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, general manager Edgardo Manda 
said that starting yesterday, passengers coming from SARS-affected 
countries would be subjected to a mandatory thermoscan test.

The test is done with a small, hand-held instrument that tells if a person 
has a fever, one of the symptoms associated with the disease.

"If the person has fever, he would be brought directly to the San Lazaro 
Hospital in Manila or to the RITM in Muntinlupa," Manda said.

He said Hong Kong authorities also ban the departure of any person 
suspected of having been infected.

Hong Kong has had 40 SARS deaths and accounts for 1,109 of 3,242 cases in 
30 countries, according to the WHO. (Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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