Wed, 07 May 2003

RI SARS deaths in Taiwan looked into

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Mataram

The government is still attempting to determine the identities of four Indonesian nationals who recently died of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Taiwan.

Foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said on Tuesday the government had asked the Taiwanese government, through the country's trade representative office here, for the information.

"We asked for the information today (on Tuesday) but have yet to receive any response from the Taiwan side," Marty told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Indonesia and Taiwan do not have diplomatic relations, due to Jakarta's acceptance of the one-China policy, and affairs between the two countries are handled through trade representative offices.

Marty also said the manpower ministry was currently attempting to identify the agency that sent the four Indonesians to Taiwan.

"We have to inform the families first before we can announce the names of the migrant workers," he said.

Jakarta also remains in the dark about whether the Indonesians have already been buried in Taiwan.

Three Indonesian medical workers in Taiwan died of SARS last Sunday, two days after an Indonesian maid working in the country succumbed to the virus.

There have been no SARS deaths in Indonesia. Two probable SARS patients were found in the country, but one of them fled to Hong Kong and the other has already been released from the hospital.

Taiwan is one of the countries in the region affected by SARS and a major destination for Indonesian migrant workers. The government has temporarily suspended the export of workers due to the SARS outbreak.

Meanwhile, senior labor officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed on the second day of their meeting in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, to take collective measures to prevent SARS from spreading in the workplace.

The virus is among the key issues discussed at the ongoing meeting of ASEAN labor officials, which is a follow-up to the recent ASEAN health ministerial meeting in Kuala Lumpur and the ASEAN summit held in Bangkok to discuss SARS.

Meeting chairman Edison Situmorang said the agreement was made after delegations from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam expressed their concern about SARS and its impact in various fields.

"All of the delegations at the meeting have no other alternative but to strongly urge joint concrete measures to control the epidemic as soon as possible, and all agreed on this (measure) being included on the agenda of the ASEAN labor ministerial meeting on Friday and Saturday," Edison said after the meeting was closed.

SARS, which has affected China, Hong Kong, Canada and ASEAN countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, has claimed more than 300 lives and affected thousands of others in the region.

Edison, a staff member at the manpower and transmigration minister, said another special meeting would be held in Manila on June 23 to formulate a joint program to prevent the spread of SARS in the workplace and among migrant workers in the region.

"Combating the SARS epidemic will be discussed as part of the occupational health and safety program in ASEAN member countries," he said, adding that all the relevant authorities were also cooperating to monitor the movement of migrant workers in the region.