MERS a national security issue: president
President Ma Ying- jeou convened a meeting of the National Security Council on Friday to heighten the nation’s alert level and threat response in light of the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in South Korea. He demanded that relevant departments and ministries, including health, education, diplomatic and transportation authorities step up efforts to prevent an outbreak in Taiwan.
The top- level meeting, “Responding to the MERS epidemic” was attended by Premier Mao Chi-kuo ( ), who led officials from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Center for Disease Control, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior Ministry, the National Immigration Agency, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, the Civil Aeronautics Administration, the Tourism Bureau, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Education, the Mainland Affairs Council, the Veterans Affairs Council and the Coast Guard Administration.
After listening to briefings by ministries and departments, Ma outlined four response measures, including strengthening health checks at the nation’s ports of entry. The Center for Disease Control has already placed on “alert” status citizens who are traveling to Seoul, South Korea. Similarly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has increased its alert level for Seoul, South Korea to a “yellow alert.”
Secondly, the president called for more resources to be made available for departments in disease prevention, and to build from earlier experiences combating SARS and H1N1. Thirdly, Ma urged the Executive Yuan to strengthen international cooperation on combating MERS, using existing platforms to increase Taiwan’s role in providing humanitarian assistance. Finally, he said that knowledge would be the best defense against the virus and that all relevant government agencies needed heighten to their sensitivity to ensure the health and safety of all on the island.
Prevention Drills Engaged Locally
Meanwhile, cities throughout the island initiated drills and pre- vention methods to respond to a potential outbreak of MERS. In Chiayi City, the fire department practiced rescue and medical quarantine procedures equipped with N95 surgical masks and other virus-blocking garb.
Taipei City Mayor Ko Wenje ( ) stated yesterday that the key to preventing a spread of MERS was accurately reporting conditions, without hiding evidence of potential cases. Fire department officials in Taipei City said they were prepared for a potential outbreak response, and said response personnel have been equipped with a total of 548 N95 surgical masks, 1,761 waterproof suits, and 607 Level-C protective suits.
Health officials urged people who have fevers of over 38 degrees centigrade and coughs within 14 days of traveling (to areas in the Middle East and Seoul, South Korea) to proactively report their conditions to medical authorities.
More information: The government has set up a 24-hour, tollfree hotline for those who have concerns about MERS. Please dial: 1922