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DILG sets anti-SARS conference on Saturday

- Perseus Echeminada -
The government will hold a conference with local officials from across the nation on Saturday to map out a plan to contain the spread of the dreaded SARS virus.

The conference will kick off the National Anti-SARS Consciousness and Cleanup Week declared by President Arroyo, Interior Secretary Jose Lina told a news conference yesterday.

Meanwhile, Sen. Manny Villar has proposed that a national clean-up day be held each year as a measure to combat SARS and other diseases.

Because of the SARS epidemic, the Department of Education was urged yesterday to delay the opening of school by a month. Classes are scheduled to open on June 9.

Lina said the conference is intended to "galvanize the efforts of the national and local governments against the spread of SARS" and to "ensure an effective response against the disease."

"After the conference the governors and mayors will take the lead role in a sustained public information campaign on SARS in coordination with the (Department of Health)," Lina said.

They would be expected to "implement local responses to prevent and contain the spread of SARS in their respective areas of jurisdiction."

Meanwhile, Villar renewed his earlier proposal for a clean-up day to be held annually, in which people will be expected to clean their homes and their surroundings.

"The clean-up day would be a good preventive measure not only against the spread of SARS but also other diseases," he said in a statement, adding that it would "bring the people closer while doing something to address the cleanliness problem."

It would also help minimize flooding in Metro Manila, which is a problem during the rainy season, Villar said. Officials said flooding is often caused by garbage clogging the sewage system, rivers and creeks.

Each year, floods force hundreds of families to evacuate their homes during the rainy season and typhoons. The rainy season begins in June and ends around September. At least 20 storms and typhoons hit the Philippines each year.

June is also the start of the school year. However, because of the SARS outbreak, Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos has suggested a one-month delay in the start of classes until the situation stabilizes.

"I’m not out to sow fear here. I’m just being logical because it’s very hard if the situation goes out of hand and the parents would panic," he said in an interview.

He cited Hong Kong and Singapore, both of which suspended classes for three weeks until the governments got a handle on the crisis. "We should allow students to attend classes once we are fully prepared to deal with the problem."

Abalos has started a campaign to educate local residents on the symptoms of the flu-like disease.

He has also issued an executive order requiring residents and businesses to keep their surroundings clean. "Sanitation is the key. We should involve everybody in the fight against SARS," Abalos said.

He urged parents to keep their children at home under a seven-day quarantine period if they develop a fever or cough, the main symptoms of SARS. City hall employees were also ordered not to report for work if they feel ill. – With Non Alquitran

ABALOS

CONSCIOUSNESS AND CLEANUP WEEK

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

HONG KONG AND SINGAPORE

INTERIOR SECRETARY JOSE LINA

MANDALUYONG CITY MAYOR BENHUR ABALOS

MANNY VILLAR

METRO MANILA

SARS

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