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Govt Maintaining SARS watch at NZ borders

Government maintaining SARS watch at New Zealand borders

The government will maintain a close watch at New Zealand’s borders in case of any re-emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Customs Minister Rick Barker said today.

“The New Zealand Customs Service has been allocated $1.7 million for extra capacity to meet Health Ministry requirements for the provision of ongoing border screening for SARS. Funding has been provided for a 12-month period.

“This will mean visitors to our country and returning New Zealanders can be assured that they will continue to receive information and assistance, if required.”

Despite the diminished global threat of SARS, Mr Barker said the government acknowledged that continued vigilance was required.

“The World Health Organisation has confirmed that the chain of human-to-human transmission from the recent SARS outbreak has been broken.

“However, they are strongly advising that continued vigilance is necessary because little is still known about the virus and we cannot rule out the possibility of another outbreak.”

Mr Barker said Customs was well placed to administer ongoing SARS border control as part of its wider duties to protect New Zealanders from terrorism and the importation of illegal drugs and prohibited goods

“As well as effectively undertaking its core business, the risk of SARS serves as an excellent example of how Customs can deliver an integrated security response to all risks and work closely with other government agencies to efficiently and effectively protect New Zealand.

“As Customs Minister, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Service for the excellent and on-going work they have undertaken to keep SARS out of New Zealand.”

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