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More moves to protect New Zealanders from SARS

More moves to protect New Zealanders from SARS

NEW ZEALANDERS recently returned from SARS-affected countries are having elective services in public hospitals deferred, and being asked not to visit people in hospital for two weeks after their return.

"We know from international experience that most transmission of SARS has been in hospitals," SARS clinical director Dr Douglas Lush said.

"This is a further precaution in our effort to reduce the possibility of SARS transmission in New Zealand."

Dr Lush said the Ministry of Health had written to all District Health Boards asking them to postpone non-urgent or elective surgery for all people who have recently travelled to countries listed as level one and level two risk in its travel advice. The same advice has been given to the Private Hospitals Association.

The postponement is for 14 days following return to New Zealand but does not extend to patients whose health would be compromised by waiting for surgery.

"This is a precautionary measure, and is in line with approaches being taken in a number of other countries including Australia."

"In the same vein we are asking people who have recently returned from affected countries not to visit hospitals in New Zealand to see family member or friends or for non-urgent business," Dr Lush said.

"We recognise that both these measures may inconvenience or upset some people, but believe that they are in the best interests of New Zealanders."

The Ministry's travel advice has also changed to reflect the latest international information.

Dr Lush said Taiwan was now considered to be at the highest level of risk (level one). The Ministry also considers China including the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong to be level one risks.

The World Health Organisation advises a steady increase in the number of new SARS cases in China, particularly in Beijing. China yesterday reported 187 new cases and 11 deaths, more than half of which were in Beijing. Other affected parts of the country include Guandong, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Tianjin, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The WHO is concerned about the ability of hospitals in some regions of China to properly isolate and treat SARS patients.

Overall China has now reported 3638 cases with 170 deaths. The special administrative region of Hong Kong has reported 1600 cases with 162 deaths. Overnight Hong Kong reported 11 new cases and five deaths.

Taiwan yesterday reported 11 new cases and two deaths. The total number of reported cases from Taiwan is now 89 with 11 deaths. A number of other cases remain under investigation. Dr Lush said the Ministry of Health would continue to be proactive in its travel advice which is now three-tiered to better reflect the risk of travelling to different areas of the world.

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