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SARS border control needs to be stepped up

SARS border control needs to be stepped up

New Zealand's first probable case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome means that our border control to prevent entry of the disease needs to be stepped up, says National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott.

"Questions also need to be asked about tracing people who have been in contact with others exposed to SARS, and when a quarantine procedure for those exposed to the disease will be used in New Zealand.

"I am concerned that health authorities did not quarantine the 33 other members of her tour party who had travelled with the Hawkes Bay woman who has a probable case of SARS. These people may have been at risk and put others at risk. We can't be too cautious in our handling of SARS.

"Other countries have used quarantining to contain the disease and New Zealand needs to have a formal process in place for this.

"It is also worrying that a member of the Ministry's SARS technical advisory group has concerns about the reluctance of our health authorities to report cases, likening New Zealand to a China cover-up over SARS. The doctor would only say this behind closed doors.

"The politics around keeping a positive spin on the existence of SARS here and its handling by authorities should not get in the way of New Zealanders knowing the facts.

"New Zealanders have only been told about the probable case in Hawkes Bay more than a week after it was reported to authorities," Dr Scott said.

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