SARS: QUARANTINE VIOLATORS FACE PUNISHMENT

Manila, 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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