International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

April 25, 2003

April 25, 2003





**  China's "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, Irene Marr


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 Chance”


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 Chernobyl”


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 SARS crisis?”


“The Plague”


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 with others.”




MOROCCO:  "Possible 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 Biological Weapon”


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 occurred.”


"Steering Through Storm For A Brighter Future"


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 future."


“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 worth rebutting.”


“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 briefing.”


“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 avoid.”


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."


"Keeping Focused"


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 Quarantine"


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."  


INDONESIA:  “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.”   


PHILIPPINES:  "U.S., China Reacted Insanely In Coping With Different Challenges"


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 behavior."


"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 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 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 crisis.”


“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 Iraq.”




INDIA:  "China Syndrome" 


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 alarm."


PAKISTAN:  "Wake Up To SARS Virus"


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 preventive measures."


"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."






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 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 reputation depend.”


“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.”


BRAZIL:  "Global Epidemics"


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."  


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