WHO Lifts Travel Warning on Taiwan

The SARS epidemic finally seems to be waning. The World Health Organization (WHO) lifted its travel advisory to Taiwan on Tuesday, with Beijing the only place remaining on the list of areas with the health agency's warning. WHO officials said that Taiwan had met the agency's criteria for the lifting and that it was now a safe place for travelers. Because of SARS, Taiwan received more official recognition in this year's WHO assembly from other countries, although it was still denied observership status due to China's opposition. – YaleGlobal

WHO Lifts Travel Warning on Taiwan

Melody Chen
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday lifted its warning against non-essential travel to Taiwan.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, director of the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, made the announcement during a conference on SARS being held in Kuala Lumpur.

He said the lifting of the travel warning was a result of the efforts of the WHO and the government and people of Taiwan.

Omi said the country had met four conditions for the warning to be lifted: an average of fewer than five new cases for the previous three days; fewer than 60 active cases in hospitals; no evidence of the disease being exported; and modes of transmission for recent cases are traceable.

WHO Public Information Officer Peter Cordingley said: "All of these [conditions] Taiwan by-and-large meets. The WHO has to decide whether it is safe to travel to Taiwan and the answer is 'yes.'"

The WHO issued the travel advisory on May 8.

While the number of new cases had been falling, the WHO refused to lift the advisory last week because of disagreements over the number of active cases and the possibility that people had recently taken the disease from Taiwan to other countries.

Cordingley said the cases of possible SARS exportation had been "discarded" after verification.

Omi said many factors would have to be considered before the WHO takes Taiwan off the list of areas with local transmission.

"One of the most important factors is whether 20 days, that is twice the incubation period, have passed since the last case of SARS is isolated," Omi said.

Beijing is now the only place to where the WHO advises people to avoid non-essential travel. The WHO denied China had pressured it into maintaining the advisory on Taiwan.

Omi said that the WHO and Taiwan were now cooperating more closely.

"The cooperation and dialogue between Taiwan and the WHO has not just been on a day-to-day basis but sometimes on an hour-to-hour basis. So the information about Taiwan is of a very updated manner," Omi said.

"Case tracing has been done properly and in a prompt manner," he said.

Regarding the way Taiwanese experts had been invited to the conference, Omi said the WHO sent the invitations via a "regular" channel.

"The regular channel means that we sent the invitations through the Ministry of Health, People's Republic of China in Beijing, and that we asked them to forward the invitations to Taiwan," Omi said.

"The Ministry of Health, People's Republic of China in Beijing, agreed to send the letters to representatives in Taiwan to participate in this meeting," he said.

After sending the invitations to China on June 6, the WHO sent another group of invitation letters to Taiwan directly on Wednesday last week because the Taiwanese government found the first invitations unacceptable because they suggested Taiwan was part of China.

Omi said he had no knowledge about the WHO sending invitations to Taiwan twice.

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