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China, Southeast Asia Nations to Improve SARS Detection Measures - 2003-06-01

China and its Southeast Asian neighbors have agreed on what they say are better ways of keeping SARS from crossing international borders.

China's chief of quarantine, Li Changjiang, said international travelers in Southeast Asia and China will get temperature checks and fill out health questionnaires.

He said regional governments have agreed to deploy temperature sensors and medical personnel to monitor the health of travelers at ports and borders.

Mr. Li said that under the new agreement, suspected SARS patients will be quickly isolated and treated, while ships with possible SARS cases will be allowed to dock at the nearest port to get medical care for the affected passengers or crew.

In the past few months, China has screened 12.5 million arriving and departing passengers, sending nearly 400 people to hospitals for observation and finding five confirmed SARS cases.

The agreement is between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Several ASEAN members have reported SARS cases - Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The group also includes Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

Meanwhile, China reported two new SARS cases, but no new deaths from the disease. It is the first time since China began reporting daily SARS cases that no deaths were announced, and it is the sixth day in a row that the nation has had fewer than 10 new SARS cases.

Hong Kong had three more cases and three more deaths from the virus, bringing the territory's death toll to 281.

Taiwan reported four new SARS cases Sunday, with no deaths for the fourth day in a row. Taiwan has seen 81 deaths out of a total of 680 infections. Taiwan authorities have launched an island-wide campaign to get all residents to take their temperatures daily to bring potential SARS cases to medical attention more quickly. Fever is a key symptom of SARS.

SARS has killed more than 750 people and infected more than 8,300 worldwide since erupting in southern China late last year.

The SARS crisis has hit the travel industry hard, leaving vacant hotel rooms and empty airline seats as people avoided travel to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

Trade ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will meet this week in Thailand where they expect to approve an emergency plan to help tourism and other industries hard hit by SARS.