PM Departs for SARS Meeting in Bangkok

Prime Minister Hun Sen left for Bangkok Tuesday to attend the world’s first collaborative summit on severe acute respiratory syndrome, where leaders from Asean countries and China aim to solidify regional plans to prevent and stop the spread of the disease.

“We have worked well. Since SARS started until now, no one has SARS,” Hun Sen said of Cambodia, where no SARS case has been reported. “But for Cam­bodia alone to have this kind of safety is not enough. To respond to this issue, we are holding this Asean meeting with China to take action to avoid a [more] serious effect in the region.”

Health Minister Hong Sun Huot joined the meeting, where heads of state will conclude talks today on a regional plan of action. Hun Sen is scheduled to return to Cambodia today. Plans proposed at the conference stem from proposals made Saturday at an Asean health ministers’ meeting in Malaysia. Every Asean nation but Vietnam attended.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organiza­tion Monday lifted all travel advisories for Vietnam.

To ensure that the country’s containment of SARS is not un­dermined, the Vietnamese Em­bassy in Phnom Penh last week stopped issuing tourist visas to travelers from Canada, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singa­pore, an embassy official said Tuesday. The official, who asked not to be named, said Vietnamese em­bassies throughout the world would stop issuing visas indefinitely. If the WHO clears a country of SARS, travel could be resumed, the official said.

Reservation officials for Viet­nam Airlines said Tuesday that two of its three flights between Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Phnom Penh were canceled for lack of passengers.

The Phnom Penh Medical Council will hold informational meetings for clinicians at 10 am today and Friday at the Faculty of Medicine to inform doctors about SARS and encourage them to refer all suspected patients to Calmette Hospital.

(Additional reporting by Kate Woodsome)

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