World health officials convening in Beijing Tuesday gave a positive appraisal of China's achievements in battling severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) disease.
"It is amazing for a country of more than one billion people to control the epidemic within several months," said Pracha Poompanich, director of the International Centers for Disease Control Office and concurrently director of the Department of Disease Control of the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand.
Poompanich and more than 100 other health officials and experts participated in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), China, Japan and ROK (10+3) High-level Symposium on SARS which opened here Tuesday.
One day prior to the meeting, China reported zero confirmed SARS cases in 24 hours. Poompanich called this report a "new signal", but reminded that "China should still be alert and prevent the rebirth of the epidemic."
He also said that he hoped to exchange information with participants of the meeting on the origin of the disease and the preventive measures.
During the meeting, Kyung-tae Moon, vice-minister of health andwelfare of the Republic of Korea (ROK), on behalf of the medical circle of ROK, donated medical equipment worth 400,000 US dollars to the Chinese Ministry of Health.
Moon said he was glad to hear the news of zero cases in China, and he hoped that the positive situation can be maintained.
"But it is not the right time to be overly optimistic since the epidemic may rebound," he cautioned.
Moon expressed the hope of strengthening anti-SARS cooperation not only with China, but also among all of Asia.
Antonio L. Amparo, medical officer of the Bureau of Quarantine and International Health Surveillance of the Philippine Department of Health, also commented positively on China's experience, including the timely isolation of SARS cases, the proper management of SARS patients and health workers, the designation of SARS-only hospitals, and the epidemic monitoring system.
"Especially at the village level, the free treatment of farmer SARS patients is a good idea," said Amparo.
Amparo just participated in a meeting held here June 1 between China and ASEAN on the entry-exit quarantine management. He expressed the hope that there would be more cooperation between ASEAN countries, China, Japan and the ROK, so as to effectively control and curb the spread of the disease and minimize the negative impact of SARS.
Japanese representative Kumao Toyoshima agreed that the zero-report day was "very critical for China", but he also hoped that China would be more cautious about the epidemic.
American representative Stephen Ostroff also approved of China's great progress in the fight against SARS, but held that it is difficult to maintain the achievement in the long run. Communication between different countries and regions will be helpful to eradicate the disease, said Ostroff.
World Health Organization representative Henk Bekedam said though China has reported one day of zero cases, the country should still be on the alert for the possibility of a rebound, and further strengthen the inspection of the epidemic supervision system.
Bekedam said that the SARS is the first crisis confronting humankind in the 21st century, and he was convinced that with global cooperation, the disease will be eventually overcome.
(Xinhua News Agency June 4, 2003)