April 25, 2003
SARS 'EPIDEMIC': CHINA PROVES 'UNABLE TO MANAGE
A REAL CRISIS'
"silence" and "deception" deepened the SARS crisis.
** Canadian outlets slam
the WHO for its "nervous-Nellie alarmism."
** SARS is a "timely
reminder" of the risks, and benefits, of increased globalization.
** Each country must
undertake "early diagnosis and quarantine" of victims.
Beijing 'reacted insanely,' causing the 'worst piece of publicity'
since Tiananmen-- Beijing's "failure
to provide the world with a timely alert" prompted widespread criticism of
its "miserable management of the SARS crisis." The liberal Melbourne Age wrote that
China will be "unable to grow into a big economic and political power if
it stifles information and initiative."
India's right-of-center Pioneer alleged "China was more
concerned about foreign investors taking flight than public health." Chinese outlets minimized the SARS crisis,
saying "certain media" sought to "demonize China."
Canadian outlets blast both Toronto's 'tardiness' and the WHO's
'infuriating shock'-- Canadian dailies, upset
over the stigma and costs of the WHO advisory, termed it a "body
blow" which will "devastate Canada's tourism industry." The liberal Toronto Star stressed that
Toronto "is safe to live in and safe to visit" due to
"stringent, effective measures to contain SARS." The conservative Ottawa Sun contrasted
Toronto's "great strides in containing the virus while keeping the public
well informed" with China's "misleading the world."
SARS highlights the importance of 'cooperation on transnational
issues'-- "There is no such
thing as a purely national health crisis" in the modern integrated
world. Thai papers opined that the
"SARS curse" will end up "promoting collective
responsibility" internationally. A
Hong Kong writer said SARS epitomized the "new risks produced by
globalization" even as SARS worsens the "struggling world
economy." There were rumors that
"SARS is a biological weapon."
A Philippine daily called the plague's timing "too fortuitous"
and accused the U.S. of using this "debilitating virus" to promote
"mayhem for China...because it alone stands opposed to the global hegemony
of the U.S."
Facing the 'savagery of SARS,' the world must implement 'necessary
rules and procedures'-- Canadian, British and
Chinese papers warned against SARS "hysteria" and agreed with South
African writers that early diagnosis and quarantine could control the
disease. However, Brazil's liberal Folha
de Sao Paulo said SARS could "ravage mankind." South Asian dailies were especially concerned
over this "easily transmissible disease for which there is no known
cure." Sri Lankan and Pakistani
dailies urged "heightened surveillance at all entry points" because
the "cost of complacency could be astronomical."
EDITORS: Ben Goldberg,
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey
is based on 41 reports from 16 countries over 2 - 25 April 2003. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "If A SARS Epidemic Strikes Here, Our Best Defence
Will Be Prayer"
Theodore Dalrymple commented in the conservative
Daily Telegraph (4/25): "It will come as no surprise to readers
to learn that Britain is peculiarly ill-placed to deal with an outbreak of
SARS, thanks to its overstretched hospitals that perpetually run at, or even
above, the limit of their capacity. This
is because an empty bed, and unused equipment, has been taken as a sign of
inefficiency and even laziness among the staff.... [F]ortunately, the scale of any likely SARS
epidemic is much smaller than a bioterorrist attack of anthrax. Nevertheless, the state of unpreparedness of
British hospitals for any events out of the ordinary--if epidemics can truly be
called events that are not to be expected--is far from reassuring. What would happen in Britain if there were an
outbreak, even quite a small one, is this: that people who are at present being
ventilated would be ventilated no further.
SARS would kill not only directly, but also by preventing others from
receiving the treatment they needed to stay alive.... We can only hope, then, that SARS avoids our
shores. We are unprepared for it, not
technically, but organisationally. If an
outbreak were to occur in any British city on the scale of the outbreak in
Toronto, we should see the full glory of the cheeseparing managerial policies
of the past few years that have reduced the numbers of beds in our hospitals to
well below the minimum necessary and that cause all our hospitals to operate in
a state of permanent crisis."
GERMANY: “Beijing’s Second
Markus Gaertner stated in business-oriented Handelsblatt of
Duesseldorf (4/15): “The change of mind
that is defusing the conflict for the time being is not only based on the
success of the allied forces in Iraq.
Another reason is that China has finally given up its restraint behind
the scenes.... But it is not enough to
talk turkey to Kim. China now has the
great chance to play the role of mediator.
Following the PR disaster in the wake of the SARS epidemic, Beijing
could now again score foreign policy points, thus also shaping the future
political framework on the Korean peninsula.
In addition, Beijing would be able to limit the strategically
detrimental side effects of a Korean crisis that could drag on. This includes a strengthening of the axis
between the United States and Japan....
China must now take advantage of this opportunity. In Pyongyang, but also in Washington,
Beijing's voice will now meet with more
open ears than a few weeks ago. The new
political leadership should, following the miserable management of the SARS
crisis not forfeit its second chance.”
POLAND: “The Chinese
Leopold Unger wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (4/24): “Seventeen years after Chernobyl, the specter
of SARS demonstrates that the Chinese version of the communist system is
similarly unable to manage a real crisis....
In the face of SARS, President Hu also turned out to be a hostage to the
double syndrome of communist rule-deception and silence--a hostage to the dogma
of withholding truth...even at the cost of human life. Chernobyl started the
demise of the Soviet system. What will SARS start in China? Out of the
Chernobyl clouds, a new Soviet Union emerged. What China will emerge out of the
Andrzej Jonas observed in military weekly Polska Zbrojna
(4/24): “SARS is a test not only for
scientists and laboratory teams. The international community must also live up
to the challenge. This includes a variety of institutions and organizations
and, above all, countries, because the epidemic will prevail if they are
unwilling to act and cooperate....
Chinese authorities tried to hide the truth about SARS...but viruses do
not obey censorship or political charms. And yet China today is not the same
country it was during era of ‘cultural revolution.’ Aside from economic growth,
the fact that the authorities apologized for having concealed information
critical to fighting SARS and punished those responsible indicates a measure of
change. Will it make struggling with the epidemic more effective? Certainly it
will. Once you manage to deal with the political plague, it is easier to cope
SARS In Rabat"
Independent, Arabic-language As-Sabah reported
(4/22): "An anonymous source has
said that there is one case of SARS in Morocco, a Japanese employee of the
Japanese Embassy in Rabat. The same
source said that the Japanese employee is under quarantine and prohibited from
leaving the Embassy premises. The
Japanese Press Attaché has denied the story and labeled it a rumor.”
AUSTRALIA: "How SARS
Slowed China's March Into The Free World"
Graham Barrett wrote in Melbourne's liberal Age
(4/23): "If a government's mettle
is measured by the way it handles a crisis, the SARS affair provides us with a
chance to gauge how China's new leadership is shaping up. On the face of things, the party chief, Hu
Jintao, and the Premier, Wen Jiabao, are dangerously late in admitting the
virus is older and its reach much wider than previously allowed.... In a sense, this is the worst piece of publicity
China has endured since the Tiananmen killings of 14 years ago.... Whatever the full story may be, the failure
of China to provide the world with a timely alert will be expensive in human
lives, in disruption to the Chinese and global economy, in investor confidence,
and in terms of Beijing's credibility....
If China is to reach its potential as an economic power and maintain
internal stability, it will need to review the way big problems are faced and
important decisions made.... Since the
Tiananmen affair, China has been integrating itself into the international
system, exchanging ideology for pragmatism, and making significant progress
towards greater openness--so much so that an avoidance of the SARS cover-up was
in reach.... The key realisation in the
leadership since Deng Xiaoping starting opening China to economic and other
liberalisations in 1978 is that it will be unable to grow into a big economic
and political power if it stifles information and initiative. The trick they are trying to perform is to
achieve continuing high growth without engendering social disorder of a kind
that would bring down the party in more ways than one. As the SARS issue indicates, it is a tough
act to perfect."
"SARS, And China's Needless Shame"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald opined
(4/22): "The spread of severe acute
respiratory syndrome (SARS), though slow, is worrying enough. Now concern about
the disease is compounded by the discovery that in China officials have
deliberately covered up the true extent of the initial outbreak there.... It is unclear what prompted such deception.
Perhaps it was a bureaucratic inclination against passing bad news on to
superiors, or the belief that too much bad news of that kind would cause panic
in the population. Perhaps it was also
the shame of having to concede to foreigners that this new disease, which first
appeared in China, was not fully under control. If so, that was an unfortunate
and unnecessary reaction.... It is no
shame for a country to be struck by a new and terrible scourge such as SARS.
There is more than shame, though, in putting at risk the efforts--both Chinese
and international--to contain and counter the disease. It is too early to say what harm might have
been done by Chinese officials' underreporting or failing to report cases of
SARS. It never helps, though, to falsify such information. The new figures
concede that there have been more than seven times the number of SARS cases in
Beijing as previously reported.... There
is some reassurance, perhaps, in the sacking of the Health Minister, Zhang
Wenkang, and the Beijing Deputy Communist Party leader, Meng Xuenong, who is
also mayor of Beijing. This, and the even more drastic step of cancelling the
weeklong May Day holiday, suggests a belated recognition by the Chinese
Government of the seriousness of the SARS threat."
CHINA: “SARS Is Not A
Shi Hongtao commented in the official Communist Youth League China
Youth Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao) (4/25): “Recently some articles are quite popular in
Chinese e-mails and chat rooms. They
insinuated that SARS is a biological weapon of the U.S. Aiming at these guesses, a senior technical
consultant from the U.S. Red Cross Commission said, ‘I believe that it is
definitely rumors that were being spreaded intentionally.... It is ridiculous to say that...scientists
will investigate and research the SARS virus and finally prove whether it is
biological weapon or not.'”
“The U.S. Took Initiative In Fighting SARS"
Under the sub-heading "A Big Country with a Large Flowing
Population, But a Few People Contracted, What is the Experience?," Mao Lei
commented in the official Xinhua Daily Telegraph (Xinhua Meiri
Dianxun, 4/25): “This surely
resulted from a relatively perfect public health infrastructure in the
U.S. Another important reason is the
U.S. took the initiative in taking actions when the new infectious disease
"Steering Through Storm For A Brighter
Beijing's English-language official China
Daily stated (4/25): "It is an extraordinary time for Hong Kong. People are suffering from fear and anxiety,
which are more destructive than economic setbacks. Having been traumatized by
the three major disasters, many people's patience and tolerance are wearing
thin and they have become psychologically weak.
They are scared by the mere mention of the disease. And the media's exaggerating and misleading
reports have sparked more and more complaints and distrust of the
government. In certain respects, the
outbreak is bringing more serious problems than the two previous crises. At those critical times, the mainland
provided very strong backing to the SAR and Hong Kong was able to maintain
interactions with the rest of the world.
This time, however, the mainland itself is fighting the same battle; and
foreigners are not willing to come while Hong Kong's business activities abroad
are being restricted. On the other hand,
we can see an increasing number of favourable factors in dealing with the
present crisis.... Global synergy will
definitely hasten the conquest of the disease.
Moreover, the central government has reassured the SAR of its readiness
to render the necessary assistance and to oblige the Guangdong authorities to
step up its co-ordination with Hong Kong....
Hong Kong has seen its worst and this is most probably the juncture when
we will see a turn for the better. What
Hong Kong needs now is unity, confidence and perseverance. If 7 million people can rally together, there
is probably no problem that cannot be resolved.
After steering through the storm, Hong Kong will see a promising
“Don’t Politicize SARS”
Liu Chengyin commented in official Communist Party international
news publication Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao)(4/18): “There is a good comment in an article, ‘It’s
like you can’t say the U.S. is the origin of AIDS just because AIDS was
reported in the U.S. First, the
article's (in ‘Wall Street Journal’) rash conclusion about SARS originated from
the South of China lacks a professional and scientific attitude.’ Even when it proves that Guangdong is the
origin of SARS in the future, it is not proper to adopt over-rigorous or even
discriminative measures to one certain region or certain group.”
“Malicious Exaggeration In Media Does Not Help”
Ren Guoping noted in official Communist Party-run People’s
Daily (Renmin Ribao) (4/17):
“It is noticeable that certain media were short of goodwill and
professional attitudes when reporting the situation (about atypical pneumonia
or SARS). It politicized the issue to
show its ‘correct stand on politics'....
Some media called atypical pneumonia a ‘Chinese bacterial weapon’, as a
means to demonize China. This is not
“Nation Steps Up Battle Against Deadly Disease”
Bao Daozu commented in official English-language China Daily
(4/16): “China understands the concerns
and worries of some countries over SARS, but hopes that amicable consultations
will help resolve the issue of Chinese citizens being denied admission to their
countries, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao yesterday at a
“SARS Has Been Brought Under Control.”
Zhang Feng and Qin Jize declared in official
English-language China Daily (4/4):
“Beijing is a safe place to live in and visit as the ‘atypical
pneumonia’--also known as SARS- has been brought control under effective
control, the nation’s health minister said yesterday.... Zhang Wenkang, the minister, said Guangdong
was the first place in the world to find the ‘atypical pneumonia’, but there
was no evidence that the disease originated from the province.”
“An Informed Public Remains Key”
Xin Zhiming remarked in official English-language China Daily
(4/2): "The harsh reality demands
clear information disclosure from the authorities, so the public can be fully
informed of the situation and take appropriate measures.... Although the disease has not been reported in
most of the country, early preventative measures should be taken. Fearing such a warning may cause unease among
the public, the authorities has been cautious when dealing with similar cases
in the past. Moreover, goodwill may
sometimes lead to an opposite outcome, which is what the authorities wish to
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Why Public Health Is Now A Global Issue"
Kanishka Jayasuriya wrote in the independent English-language South
China Morning Post (4/22): "No
other term in contemporary parlance is as abused and misunderstood as
globalization. But, like the Asian
economic crisis, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) compels us to
recognize that globalization needs to be managed and regulated; increasingly
these functions need to be performed at regional and global levels. Governments across the region need to learn
the lessons of this crisis lest SARS and other similar crises become a
permanent stain on the global landscape.
What are some of these lessons?
One is that we need to recognize that there is no such thing as a purely
national health crisis.... SARS also
teaches us that globalization is a complex process that often pushes in
opposite directions. Economic
globalization tends to weaken public health sectors in both developed and
developing countries. But this hollowing-out
of the public health sector creates and amplifies the kind of health crisis we
confront today. One reason is the
decline in resources that national governments have had to fund and finance
adequate public health systems....
Globalization has also replaced public health systems with unregulated
private health markets. Yet in a crisis,
we expect the public sector, not markets, to take the lead. Just as the New York Fire Department went
into the burning World Trade Center buildings, it was health workers who walked
into the eye of the SARS storm.... More
generally, SARS is a timely reminder to the World Bank--and to other promoters
of private health markets--that reforms may erode governments' abilities to
deal with the new risks produced by globalization. This applies not just to
public health-care systems, but also to the research skills, capabilities and
resources within the public sector which, as we have seen, are vital in dealing
with the SARS crisis."
Fionnuala McHugh observed in the independent English-language South
China Morning Post (4/15): "[I
didn't understand] the U.S. Department of State authorizing the paid departure
of non-emergency employees and their families from the consulate here (and,
later, from the mainland). Either you
think this is a terribly infectious and dangerous disease--in which case, why
spread it? Or it isn't--in which case,
why leave and increase panic? In sending
out that directive, at a time when the U.S. is at war, it appears the State
Department decided it might as well execute the bureaucratic equivalent of a
Black Hawk extraction on this side of the world too: pull out the Americans and leave the seething
natives behind (with a plague on all their houses)."
TAIWAN: "Government Thanks Public Confined Due To Sars
Lilian Wu reported for state-run Taipei Central News Agency
(4/25): "A government spokesman
expressed his appreciation Friday for those members of the public who have been
put into SARS quarantine. Cabinet
Spokesman Lin Chia-lung made the remarks after reports said the shutdown of the
Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital the previous day had triggered a backlash from
the people who had been locked into the hospital. The government decided to shut down the
hospital and put patients and staff into separate buildings for isolation. There were reports that some of the people
confined were angry and anxious, with some of them fleeing through hospital
windows upon learning that the facility was to be closed.... Lin said that while it is understandable that
those who are confined within the hospital might feel that they are healthy and
should not have to stay there, the SARS incubation period still has not been
determined.... On the cases of Taiwan
businessmen operating on the mainland who have contracted SARS, Lin said that
the government is now coordinating a medical team to be sent to the mainland
and is planning how to overcome the difficulties of helping such businessmen
return home for treatment."
“The Horror Is Called SARS”
Independent Media Indonesia editorialized
(4/4): “The victims of SARS add to the
list of our pains for the loss of lives.
And this happens precisely when we are ‘forced’ to see terrible
massacres in Iraq. Just as in the
massacres in Saddam Hussein’s country by the U.S., we are everyday counting the
number of people dying because of the savagery of SARS.”
"U.S., China Reacted Insanely In Coping With Different
Former AsiaWeek Editor Tony Lopez wrote in the independent Manila
Times (4/25): "The world's two
greatest powers displayed a disturbingly common behavior in coping with two
markedly different challenges. They
acted insanely. The U.S. reacted
foolishly to the looting of the Baghdad Museum, one of the world's richest, and
the burning of Iraq's three major libraries, among the greatest in the
world.... China also reacted insanely to
the slow but steady spread of the dreaded SARS disease.... The U.S. and China must conform to civilized
"Murder And Mayhem"
In independent Malaya, Rodolfo Dula contended (4/4): "The Middle East is a current
coinage.... The region was named Asia
Minor. This bears recalling because I'm
increasingly inclined to see what's afoot there and what's afflicting so many
in our own neck of the woods...in East and Southeast Asia.... In a word, SARS.... Call me a conspiracy theorist, but the timing
of this plague is too fortuitous for my taste.... As the Anglo-American alliance does its
abominable thing over there, we're given something just as scary to pin us down
here.... Murder for Iraq...mayhem for
China and the territories in its natural sphere of influence. China, because it looms as the most dangerous
obstacle to a strike against North Korea.
And because...it alone stands opposed to the global hegemony of the
United States.... We're being treated
to...a holding dose of a debilitating virus until Uncle Sam's done in the Gulf
and can train its awesome might on our neighborhood.... I harbor the suspicion owing to the fact
that...America is...the most zealous custodian and breeder of the widest range
of the most...fearful biological agents in the world.... Owing to SARS, virtually the entire region is
now quarantined, in effect immobilized."
THAILAND: “A Crucial
Bangkok Summit On SARS”
The lead editorial in the independent, English-language Nation
read (4/21): “It must be recognized that
the battle against SARS is taking place on two fronts. One is the disease itself, the other is
public fear.... The world is indeed
watching. The Bangkok summit is an
opportunity for China to put the record straight with confident backing from
the countries in the region. It is not
an understatement to say that there is just this one opportunity to rescue the
regional economies. The outcome must be
seen by the entire world as sufficiently realistic. Otherwise another regional crisis will
certainly materialize, of far greater magnitude and much longer lasting than
the 1997 financial crisis, meaning another lost decade in sight.”
“Will Crisis Boost ASEAN’s Co-responsibility?”
Kavi Chongkittavorn commented in the independent, English-language
Nation (4/21): “It will not take
long to find out whether this SARS curse will turn into a blessing in disguise
by promoting collective responsibility among ASEAN countries, which could
eventually broaden the grouping’s cooperation on transnational issues.”
“SARS Gives Tourism A Heavy Battering”
The lead editorial in the independent, English-language Nation
read (4/10): “It is rather disappointing
that China is not playing any leadership role in this health crisis, which
could bring down the Hong Kong economy.
Although SARS can be traced to southern China, the authorities have been
reluctant to face the problem. The
Chinese have known about the virus since late last year, but the whole world
found out just three weeks ago. Only
very recently did the Chinese come out to admit their poor handling of the SARS
“SARS Crisis Needs Better Handling”
The independent, English-language Nation opined (4/6): “Kudos must at this point go to Singapore and
Vietnam for their swiftness in tackling the SARS crisis at the onset. Singapore, in particular, took on the
situation with determination. The
message was that short-term economic gains were not to be put before public
health, this being the prerequisite for long-term economic gains. It seems as if everything that Singapore has
built on was summoned forth for this kind of occasion. The worst of the lot were Hong Kong and
China. Neither of that one country’s two
systems could make up their minds about where their ultimate interests
lie.... In this crisis, Thailand has
performed far from well.”
“APEC Should Rise To SARS Challenge”
The top-circulation, moderately-conservative, English-language Bangkok
Post declared (4/5): "Dedicated
to opening up trade and investment, APEC so far has not taken up public health
issues. But SARS spreads so fast, and
with such a direct impact on the economy, that APEC must now rise to the
challenge. Besides providing an information
service on the incidence of infection, APEC must also contribute to research
towards identifying the cause of the illness, without which tests for infection
cannot be designed. APEC’s commitment to
promoting the region’s economic growth would justify the extension of its work
to public health. The deadly illness
will probably have more direct impacts on tourism industries in Asia, on which
the developing countries largely depend for foreign exchange, than the war in
The pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer editorialized
(4/22): "With the axing of Chinese
Health Minister Zhang Wenkang and Beijing Mayor Meng Xuenong by the Communist
Party of China, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) seems to have claimed
its first political casualties.... The
Chinese dragon has been accused not only of slumbering far too long, but also
of fudging facts and figures.... Its
curious silence fuelled suspicions that China was more concerned about foreign
investors taking flight than public health, thus putting the world at risk from
an easily transmissible disease for which there is no known cure. The testimony
of a Russian medical expert...have led to talk about SARS being a biological
weapon breaking out of laboratory confinement, with catastrophic
results.... Clearly, China did hide
facts, and must come clean about why it did so.... Meanwhile, Defence Minister George Fernandes
has gone ahead with his China visit with characteristic aplomb. He seems to
take India's immunity as a given, but the country is still a long way from
sharing his confidence."
"Plagued By China's Silence"
The nationalist Hindustan Times maintained (4/22): "SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome) must be the most used and feared four-letter word in recent memory as
it threatens to bring nations to a halt. It has already claimed tens of hundreds
of lives and infected thousands across the globe.... People who appear to be most at risk are
either healthcare personnel treating the sick, or members of household contacts
who are infected with SARS.... Beijing's
sacking of health officials responsible for this murderous mess may be accepted
as an apology of sorts, but an explanation would be even more difficult to
find.... China continues to be
silent.... If there's some good news,
it's that researchers have completed the genetic sequencing of the coronavirus
that's behind this big chill in the world. This should enable scientists to
track the germ's origin and produce an effective diagnostic reagent, which, in
turn, will lead to vaccines and medicines for treating SARS."
"Out Of Asia"
The Kolkatta-based, centrist Telegraph contended (4/9): "Although it is not quite clear how the
virus spreads, it appears that SARS has a low death rate (below 4 per cent), a
high rate of recovery and a relatively restricted infection rate.... There is neither a vaccine nor a specific
treatment, although antibiotics and antiviral treatments have been used to
combat the symptoms. The currently available viral detection test for SARS is
useful in the early stages of infection, but produces false negatives.... Going into bureaucratic denial and
defensiveness is the last thing to do in such situations. Singapore seems to
have been the most prompt in implementing strict infection control measures.
The WHO also maintains that infection control methods work to contain the
spread of SARS in hospitals, even in countries which do not have the most
modern equipment. Being informed, alert and prompt with quarantine and
treatment is the best attitude India could adopt, without spreading undue
PAKISTAN: "Wake Up To
Lahore's Daily Times commented (4/25): "Pakistan does not have the capacity to
cope with the epidemic. Its only chance,
albeit feeble, is to check the disease at its doors. We recommend that the government should
immediately issue an alert and make arrangements at all ports of entry to check
and monitor arriving passengers. The
entire staff of the national carrier as well as Airport Security Forces and
Civil Aviation should be given basic information about the disease and any
"Precautions Against SARS"
Karachi-based independent national Dawn held (4/23): "The rapid spread of the fatal virus
called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) from South East Asia to the
rest of the world--cases have been reported from as far away as Europe and
North America--underscores the need for taking vital precautions in
Pakistan.... The seemingly lax attitude
on the part of the health department officials, who should be present at the
country's international airports round the clock at this critical time, makes
one wonder whether they are fully aware of the risk incoming passengers may
pose to public health in the country and the efforts and precautions needed at
entry points to avert the dire threat....
The Civil Aviation Authority, which grants landing rights to airlines
and provides essential ground services, and other relevant agencies, need to
get their act together promptly by activating quarantine facilities and
implementing all the necessary rules and procedures without any further delay.
This is necessary to ensure that Pakistan's airports remain safe transit points
for all incoming and outgoing passengers."
SRI LANKA: "Hospitals
To be Ready To Receive The Fatal Viral Flu SARS"
Popular Sinhalese-language, pro-establishment Divaina
declared (4/24): The Health Ministry has
ordered the district health directors and heads of hospitals to prepare all
hospitals on the island to handle the fatal viral flu SARS. A high-ranking official of the Health
Ministry told Divaina that measures have already been taken to set up small
treatment units where patients suspected of suffering from SARS could be
accommodated. The spokesperson said
that the ministry will provide the necessary equipment for these units,
including ventilators and masks and gloves.
So far, only the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Angoda and the National
Hospital in Colombo and a few private hospitals have the facility to
accommodate SARS patients. Now, all
hospitals have been asked to be ready as the disease could be reported from any
part of the country."
"Tackling The SARS Outbreak"
Government-owned English-language Daily News opined
(4/19): "Sri Lanka can count itself
among the lucky countries which have not reported SARS cases so far.... Authorities should heighten surveillance at
all entry points and especially screen passengers from the highly affected
countries. If a reliable SARS test becomes available soon, health authorities
should get ...without delay. Hospitals, public and private, should be geared
fully to meet any contingency. The media should be used extensively to
disseminate information on SARS, as thousands of Lankans travel abroad daily.
All these should be implemented as soon as possible, because the cost of
complacency could be astronomical. We ...depend heavily on tourism and labour migration.
Any negative effect on these vital segments of the economy could indeed be very
unhealthy for our country."
"SARS Fears Engulf The Whole World"
Government-owned Tamil-language Thinakaran stated
(4/10): "Our health authorities say
no SARS patients have been detected in Sri...but our people are afraid of
it. Steps should be taken to prevent the
disease spreading to Sri Lanka. Sri
Lanka is linked with international countries through...tourism,
bringing...foreigners into the country....
But a thorough check up before allowing them into the country will help
us to stop carrying the SARS virus into the country. Steps have been taken to check the incoming
passengers at the Katunayake Airport. It
is important to strengthen this service at the airport."
SOUTH AFRICA: "SARS
Left-of-center Dispatch Online commented (4/25): "Telling the difference between sensible
precaution and panic is not so easy....
Countries like South Africa face a double blow from the disease. A new epidemic could take a very heavy toll
on a population which has large numbers of people already suffering from poor
nutrition; HIV-Aids, which weakens resistance to all diseases; and
tuberculosis. We also have no great
reputation for responding swiftly to killer epidemics. SARS is already causing a sharp slowdown in a
struggling world economy.... For us, the
damage will be to our people, our exports and to tourism. South Africa needs to take every precaution
it can against the disease getting a grip here.... There is not yet cause for panic, but there
is reason to be extremely vigilant."
"The SARS Factor"
Balanced Business Day editorialized (4/24): "There is a certain irony that the
economic warnings which the WTO has been giving about the SARS virus, in light
of the failure of the Geneva-based trade body to have agreed...on new rules
which would allow poor countries to produce or import generic drugs to deal
with major public health crises.... A failure
to deal with this issue will not bode well for the crucial WTO trade ministers'
meeting in Cancun in September, where ministers will find it difficult to make
much progress in a short time if they are faced with a bottleneck of topics
which should have been cleared out of the way well before September. A world economy which is suffering the
aftermath of a war and the impact of a public health crisis is not a world
economy which can afford the luxury of a paralyzed WTO trade round as
well. A move back to protectionism could
see all sorts of horrors, not the least of which might be a retreat by China
back into its inward-looking shell. Yes,
when the next public health crisis occurs in this poor but highly populated
country, the world needs to know about it, and act on it, far sooner. But WTO members must not only worry about
SARS. They must take bold steps needed
to further open up the global economy for the good of all."
CANADA: “The War Against SARS”
The conservative National Post opined (4/24): “Yesterday's news that the World Health
Organization is urging travellers to avoid unnecessary visits to Toronto came
as an infuriating shock... The WHO
advisory can only compound the economic fallout the SARS scare has already
wrought in Ontario.... Given this hysteria, ridding Canada of SARS is an
economic as well as medical imperative.
Unless the disease is eliminated through a program of early diagnosis
and quarantine, our economy won't recover until SARS diffuses globally, and travellers
become habituated to the chronic, low-level risk it presents, a process that
could take years. The complaints of
civil libertarians notwithstanding, there is no avoiding the fact that
controlling SARS means controlling the movements of people who have SARS. Government health officials therefore have
the right--indeed, the obligation--to ensure that every Canadian with SARS
symptoms complies with their quarantine order.... Other countries are taking more stringent
measures than Canada. In Singapore, for
instance, authorities use cameras and electronic tracking bracelets to monitor
those under quarantine. Such measures
are not yet warranted for all Canadian carriers: The vast majority of suspected
SARS patients in this country are maintaining quarantine. But no measure should be discounted out of
hand for those who refuse to be isolated.”
"Toronto Can Curb SARS Damage"
The liberal Toronto Star editorialized
(4/24): "For Greater Toronto's 4.5
million people, the warning by the World Health Organization's Dr. David
Heymann that there's "a great risk" of getting SARS here came as a
body blow. It also flies in the face of facts. Toronto is safe to live in and
safe to visit. This city should not be made a pariah.... Stringent, effective measures to contain SARS
are in place. While 320 Canadians have probable or suspected cases, most have
survived. Sixteen have died. The experts say this outbreak is not out of
control. So, rather than waste energy
bemoaning the WHO's nervous-Nellie alarmism, Toronto officials should put their
outrage to positive use by crafting a plan to cope with the long-term damage to
the city's image and economy after this episode of SARS is contained.... The Toronto region accounts for a fifth of
the entire nation's economic output....
Every Canadian has a stake in the city's well-being. Hong Kong has just budgeted $2 billion to
help businesses, health officials and residents cope. We can do the same...[and]
should launch an immediate multi-million-dollar, long-term communications blitz
to set the record straight on SARS, to counteract hysteria and to polish the
city's battered image. This healing can
begin at home. We need to mobilize Toronto's civic spirit to show the world
that we're not afraid to be out at restaurants, cinemas, ball games, cultural
events and the like. You may get depressed cheering the Jays, but you aren't
likely to get SARS. Let's show the world
how scared we aren't."
“Toronto's Lonesome Day Amid Rising SARS fears”
The leading Globe and Mail lamented (4/24): “If SARS is not
out of control...it is also true that its back has not been broken. Toronto was praised yesterday by the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its 'exemplary' efforts to
contain SARS, but the city has made some costly mistakes, too. Most serious was its tardiness in dealing
with an outbreak in a tight-knit religious community earlier this month. So now the city, and all levels of government,
must recognize the extraordinary stakes in this matter, and not only in physical
health.... It is possible to be a hero
and to endanger others at the same time.
Health-care workers dealing directly with SARS patients are in just that
position. They are putting themselves in
harm's way, not for glory or extra pay but because it is their job. How to support them and keep them safe--and
protect others from them--are the keys now for controlling SARS. And on that control, a city's health and
“WHO Said That?”
The conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun queried (4/24): “Congratulations to the World Health
Organization. It managed to take a
serious medical issue and turn it into a full-blown global public relations
disaster.... [The] WHO's global health
warning will unnecessarily cause the city, indeed this country, incalculable
consequences for years to come. It will
take that long to erase the stigma of being lumped in with some rural backwater
province in China as a place best to avoid by citizens around the world.... Whatever the reason, WHO should have made a
clear distinction between a city like Toronto, which has made great strides in
containing the virus while keeping the public well informed, and China, which
has done little to stop the spread of SARS while misleading the world about the
true state of the health crisis in the country.... Here in Ottawa we have good reason to be
worried. Travelers will make little
distinction between Toronto and any other Canadian city. The WHO warning will devastate Canada's
tourism industry with huge economic consequences, even if the SARS virus is
beaten within a few weeks.”
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo observed (4/6): "SARS may either disappear in the next
few weeks as mysteriously as it emerged or turn into another disease to ravage
mankind. It is impossible to predict exactly what will happen.... So far, the worse seems to have been avoided
in Brazil. Suspicious cases have been rapidly isolated. However, if SARS turns
into a global epidemic, Brazil will certainly not be immune."