Skip to main content

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I should like to provide an update to the statement on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) given on 28 April 2003, Official Report, columns 38–52 by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.World wide reported cases total 7,296 as at 10 May, with 526 deaths. The situation in Toronto is now such that Canada has been removed from the World Health Organisation and UK travel advisories. However, the WHO has now extended its travel advice to cover Tianjin, Inner Mongolia Province and Taipei. The UK followed suit and amended its advice for UK travellers on 8 May.The UK total of "probable" cases now stands at four. This figure includes one case diagnosed retrospectively from March as a result of a review of the clinical findings. At the same time, other cases have been removed following confirmation of alternative diagnoses. The last case in the UK was admitted to hospital on 10 April, and all those diagnosed as probable cases have now recovered.

The UK has now been removed from the World Health Organisation's list of "affected countries". We were listed as a result of our last case having acquired the illness in London following a face-to-face meeting with a Hong Kong business man who was passing through, and who was diagnosed with SARS on his return to Hong Kong. There have been no other cases associated with this incident.

My right hon. Friend outlined a five point plan of further action following advice from the Chief Medical Officer. Progress on implementing these is as follows:

First, a letter went to all Chief Executives of National Health Service and primary care trusts on 29 April, reminding them of the action they need to take in their own organisations as a precaution in case of further possible cases presenting to the NHS. This included advice on health care workers recruited to the NHS from SARS affected areas. A summary of this letter has gone to all general practitioners.

Secondly, observers have been to Hong Kong and Singapore to look at their exit health screening procedures in relation to the guidance issued by the World Health Organisation. Plans are in train to send a further observer to Beijing, this time in association with the WHO.

Thirdly, we have secured agreement with UK carriers and Air China on the distribution of information to passengers leaving SARS affected areas, and are continuing to take this work forward with the other non-UK carriers.

Fourthly, a letter has been sent, incorporating relevant parts of the Aircraft Regulations, to remind airlines of the laws which apply to them. This includes in particular their obligations to provide an aircraft declaration of health when a plane arrives in this country should the medical officer require it; and for the commander of an aircraft to report details of an individual suffering from an infectious disease (or with symptoms which may indicate the presence of an infectious disease) before arrival at destination.

And fifthly, the Department of Health is taking forward the proposal for a meeting of Ministers alongside the World Health Assembly later this month. In the meantime a special European Health Council met last week at which the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), led the UK delegation. The Council agreed draft conclusions. It endorsed the measures taken so far and set out actions to strengthen European preparedness. The Council will review the situation at its meeting on 2 June.