SARS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY, ARRESTS POSSIBLE

Manila, April 28, 2003 -- Malacaņang yesterday said the SARS (Severe Acute 
Respiratory Syndrome) crisis is now a "national emergency" and that local 
government units can temporarily detain suspected carriers of the virus.

Where warranted, quarantine may be imposed by soldiers or policemen, said 
presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye.

Another suspected SARS case is being monitored by health officials.

Under observation at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in 
Alabang, Muntinlupa, is a niece of Mauricio Catalon, the first locally 
transmitted SARS case in the country, and the second fatality from SARS.

Catalon died on April 22, nine days after Adela, his daughter, succumbed to 
SARS which she had contracted in Canada.

Mauricio's niece developed low-grade fever three times the past week, Dr. 
Rainero Olveda, RITM chief, said.

The niece is the fifth case suspected to have been infected by Adela.

Her fever went down yesterday, but she will be kept at the RITM until 
Wednesday. "If she does not develop fever until April 30, she will be 
released," Olveda said.

Bunye said SARS is "a very big problem" that requires strict implementation 
of quarantine measures and other steps to prevent its spread.

Bunye said an executive order issued by President Arroyo last Friday 
empowers Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit to call on the Armed Forces and the 
PNP to implement quarantine measures.

He said violators of quarantine rules will be penalized.

He said quarantined communities would be provided with food and other 
relief items by the health and social welfare departments, just like in any 
calamity.

He said the LGUs would shoulder the expenses for the first three days, 
after which the national government would take over.

Bunye also said LGUs can help the trade department arrest the rising prices 
of face masks and Vitamin C supplements.

Arroyo's EO tasks the DTI to monitor the prices of such items.

He said there is no need yet for people to wear face masks in the streets 
because contact with carriers are likely only in SARS-infected area.

It would be determined "at a later time" if there is a need to prepare 
"economic incentives" like the loans given by Hong Kong to businessmen 
whose businesses have been affected by SARS, Bunye said.

Trade Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the price of face masks is expected to 
rise because suppliers do not maintain a large stock of the items.

But Roxas said prices of Vitamin C tablets are a different matter because 
there is ample supply. He said the trade department will monitor the prices 
of these items to prevent abusive traders from jacking up their prices.

Olveda said the niece took care of Mauricio when he was being treated at 
the RITM, but she wore a mask.

Aside from the niece and Mauricio, the others suspected to have been 
infected by Adela were her brother-in-law, her two minor neighbors, and an 
X-ray technician at the San Lazaro Hospital.Except for Mauricio, all of 
them have recovered.

So far there had been four SARS cases in the country.

They are a German national who has recovered, Adela, Mauricio, and JP, the 
domestic helper from Hong Kong, who is now being treated at the Eastern 
Visayas Medical Center in Tacloban City.

Sen. Teresa Aquino Oreta called on Malacaņang to use its contingency fund 
to contain SARS instead of spending the money on the planned humanitarian 
mission to Iraq. (With JP Lopez)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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