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SARS screening still needed

SARS screening still needed

National says screening of passengers at airports is needed to ensure we are doing enough to stop the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome disease coming here.

"With reports from the Ministry of Health that people are overreacting to the possibility of the disease this would also make people feel safer," says National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott.

"Screening does not mean white-coated doctors with masks and goggles stopping people at airports. It means asking inbound travellers from the key SARS-affected areas where they have been and checking for symptoms.

"This can be done easily and is being done by many countries. Such screening is only necessary at New Zealand's two airports which receive passengers from Asian countries, Auckland and Christchurch.

"Without being overdramatic about SARS, I think it is important we do start low-level screening because, despite reports by the Ministry of Health that it is only spread by close contact, we still don't know how this disease spreads. There is still no answer as to why it spread right through a section of a Hong Kong apartment block.

"Indonesia and Canada have quarantine officers checking passengers arriving from affected areas, Australia and Singapore have medical staff screening passengers at airports and Thailand is using doctors at airports to make the same simple checks.

"New Zealand has much contact with Asian countries. We want to pick up people who may be carrying the disease early so they don't infect others," Dr Scott said.

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