SARS: QUARANTINE VIOLATORS FACE PUNISHMENTManila, April 27, 2003 -- President Arroyo yesterday threatened punishment for persons who violate SARS quarantines as she gave a crisis panel sweeping powers to check the spread of the deadly virus in the country. "The Philippines is in danger of being affected adversely by the contagion unless bold, preemptive, active and immediate steps are taken," Mrs. Arroyo said as the government reported its first four cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) including two deaths. "The negative impact of SARS on business productivity, tourism and mobility of citizens has become astoundingly evident," a presidential proclamation said. The Chief Executive created a "crisis committee" led by Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit late Friday with powers to "contain, control, prevent and otherwise restrict the spread of SARS in the country." The committee would enforce "rigid screening and identification of SARS suspects" at all ports of entry, as well as "effective quarantine and proper isolation procedures, including community containment centers." "Violators will be charged for breaking the law," Mrs. Arroyo, in a radio address, said. "I have ordered our law enforcement agencies, local governments and village authorities to support this campaign." In the presidential order, the crisis committee can call upon the armed forces and the police as well as other government agencies to enforce quarantines and compel public compliance. Dayrit may authorize the "examination of incoming and outgoing vessels and aircraft, surveillance over sanitary conditions, including the detention, isolation and quarantine of cargoes, passengers, crews and all personal effects" to stop SARS infected people and cargo. He also has powers to close schools, suspend classes, or use school and other buildings for containing the spread of the epidemic.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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