The Chinese government is giving all-out financial support to the nationwide battle against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) disease, Finance Minister Jin Renqing said Wednesday.
The State Council, China's cabinet, has decided to establish a 2 billion yuan (US$242 million) fund for SARS prevention and control, of which 900 million yuan (US$108 million) has been allocated.
Local finance departments around the country have also arranged funds for this purpose, the minister said in response to reporters' questions.
By Tuesday, various localities on the Chinese mainland have allocated more than 5 billion yuan (US$602 million) for SARS prevention and control. Among them, Beijing and Guangdong, which have the biggest number of SARS patients, contribute more than 600 million yuan (US$72 million) each.
Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry and Health Ministry have jointly issued an urgent document requiring all localities to give poverty-stricken peasants and urban dwellers, including peasants working in towns, free medical service once they contract SARS, so as to ensure each SARS patient receives timely medical care regardless of his financial resources, Jin said.
To improve medical service and effectively check the spread of SARS in the countryside, the Finance Ministry and local finance departments at all levels will ensure the main part of the augmented spending in educational, health and cultural undertakings goes to the vast rural areas beginning this year.
Preferential tax policies have also been formulated to support the fight against SARS, the minister said.
Under the policies, preventive articles, medical equipment and related vehicles from overseas donators are exempted from import duties; individual income tax is free concerning the temporary allowances for front-line medical and quarantine workers, and preventive medicine and articles work units give to their staff members; no income tax is levied on institutional and individual donations for SARS prevention and control; and individual vegetable sellers in Beijing are free from value-added tax, individual income tax and two other taxes during the SARS-ridden period.
According to Jin, the central finance has also allocated special fund to support the development of agent for fast testing of SARS virus and anti-SARS medicine. Once the agent is developed, the central finance will cover all the costs of its production, procurement and issuance.
To step construction of infrastructure facilities for disease prevention and control and establish the fast response system of public health emergencies in the country, the State Development and Reform Commission has allocated 2.9 billion yuan to central and western regions and another 600 million yuan for the construction of the first-phase project of the state disease prevention and control center.
The Finance Ministry has also set aside a 310 million yuan special fund for the construction of the information system and equipment procurement for China Disease Control Center, Jin said.
With all these efforts, plus the leadership of the central authorities, the support of whole nation and the contribution of medical workers and researchers, the Chinese people will surely win the battle against SARS, he added.
(Xinhua News Agency May 8, 2003)