- (AFP) -- Singapore suspended all classes up to the pre-university
level and placed more people under home quarantine after suffering its
first death from a mysterious respiratory disease.
- Some 600,000 students are affected by the school closures
from Thursday to April 6 and 861 people in the city-state are now under
orders to stay home in a bid to contain the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory
- Concern was rising among parents, and rumors that the
disease was spreading beyond control gripped the densely-populated island,
where the number of SARS cases rose to 74, with 10 patients in serious
- "As an additional precautionary measure in response
to concerns expressed by parents on the recent SARS cases, the Ministry
of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Health (MOH) have decided to close all
primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges and centralised institutes
from Thursday 27 March to Sunday 6 April," a government statement
- "On purely medical grounds, there are currently
no strong reasons for closing all schools. However, principals and general
practitioners (doctors) have reported that parents continue to be concerned
about the risk to their children in schools," it said.
- The ministries hoped that the additional precautionary
step to close schools "will address parents' concern and further reassure
- They said that "further transmission of the infection
appears to be stabilising" and the control measures "appear to
be working, although it is still too early to be confident of this."
- Earlier Wednesday, Singapore reported its first death
from SARS, already blamed for 10 deaths in Hong Kong, four in Vietnam and
three in Canada.
- The disease was brought to Singapore by three local travellers
who had visited Hong Kong, where they were believed infected by a mainland
Chinese doctor who eventually died.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) head office in Geneva
listed 487 SARS cases worldwide in its most recent bulletin.
- At least 31 deaths from an earlier outbreak of atypical
pneumonia in China could be SARS-linked, but experts have yet to establish
a direct connection. Health authorities in Beijing meanwhile said Tuesday
three people had died from atypical pneumonia since the beginning of March.
- Singapore Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang said that the
strategy remains isolation of victims and suspected cases through quarantines
and restrictions on visits to hospitalised victims.
- Hefty fines will be imposed on those who break the 10-day
quarantine, which was imposed under the rarely invoked Infectious Diseases
- On Wednesday, health officers made the rounds of schools
and child care centres to alert teachers on how to detect potential cases.
- The owner of a child care centre with 38 children enrolled
said two health officers went to her school with the latest instructions.
- "If a child has a fever above 38 degrees, we have
to inform the parents to come and take away the child," she told AFP.
- In case the parents are not free or held up at work,
an emergency telephone number at the ministry of health can be called so
that a team can come down and take the child away for inspection, she said.
- "At the moment, there's no panic. On my side, I'm
more alerted," she said, adding she has a thermometer ready to check
the temperature of children showing signs of fatigue or slight fever.
- Despite the scare in Hong Kong, the Singapore rugby team
Wednesday left for the Sevens tournament which will start Friday in the
Chinese Special Administrative Region.
- Fears of contracting the disease made teams from Argentina,
France and Italy pull out of the event.
- Copyright © 2002 AFP. All rights reserved. All information
displayed in this section (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected
by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence
you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any
way commercially exploit any of the contents of this section without the
prior written consent of Agence France-Presses.