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Prisons Stave off SARS
China's jails have introduced a range of preventative measures which have successfully kept severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) at bay.

Prisons across the country have reported a total absence of the disease from their populations.

In a special document circulated across the country, the Ministry of Justice has ordered all jails to be disinfected on a regular basis.

According to the document, activities such as meetings between inmates and their relatives, visits by relatives, and leave are all canceled temporarily. Inmates can make more phone calls to relatives, while wardens and other staff are required to work on consecutive days.

The ministry has also dispatched seven working groups to areas severely affected by SARS, such as Guangdong and Shanxi provinces, Beijing, and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, to supervise the implementation of measures to prevent the spread of SARS into jails.

Wu Yuncai, deputy warden of Chongqing Municipal Jail, said justice workers should show SARS-free test certificates given by authorized hospitals if they were to speak to prisoners.

Song Qilin, a 51-year-old inmate, told Xinhua by phone that they had learned about SARS through newspapers and TV programs.

Inmates had been organized to take traditional Chinese medicinal herbs on a regular basis. They also cleaned the jail, sprayed disinfectants and were taught how to maintain personal hygiene.

"No SARS cases have been found in my jail," said Song, who is serving a life sentence. "Because of better hygiene, there are even fewer cases of common colds among the prisoners."

Liu Yuegang, a leading medical worker with Chongqing Municipal Jail, said they had worked out detailed procedures in case of emergencies.

Medical workers at the jail had received intensive training. Aroom for fever diagnosis and a room for isolation had also been prepared. Face masks, gloves and protective garments were available. Medical workers were required to take inmates' temperatures daily.

Zhang Jianguo, head of sanitation and hygiene with Chongqing Municipal Administration for Jails, said all the prisons in this southwest Chinese municipality had adopted strict measures to prevent SARS.

Zhang said all new inmates were required to be quarantined for two weeks and all motor vehicles and articles such as mail were properly disinfected.

Jails in other parts of the country have also stepped up measures to prevent SARS.

Zhu Jianhua, head of Beijing's Municipal Prison Administration, said Beijing's prisons had been sealed off since Apr. 24.

Family members were banned from visiting inmates, and prison wardens and officers had isolated themselves and taken turns to carry out daily SARS prevention operations, such as disinfecting cells, ventilating prison rooms and organizing inmates for outdoor activities.

Each prison in central China's Hubei Province was told to put aside 100,000 yuan (US$12,048) to buy medicine to fight SARS and to improve inmates' quality of life.

Officers in Shijiazhuang City Jail, north China's Hebei Province, have been working hard to ensure a clean environment inside the jail.

SARS cases in the Chinese mainland rose to 4,884 cases as of Saturday morning, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

A total of 1,620 SARS patients have been discharged from hospital on recovery while 235 have died, according to the information office of the ministry.

(Xinhua News Agency May 11, 2003)

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