30 APRIL 2003

Search all issues

powered by FreeFind

Send Your Feedback!

OHSA issues Sars guidelines for workers

- government stops visas from affected countries

The occupational Health and Safety Authority yesterday, after being "inundated by calls regarding the risks faced by workers in various establishments of contracting SARS", has issued a set of lengthy guidelines for workers that might come into contact with the increasingly infamous severe acute respiratory syndrome.
But while acting on the concern expressed by callers, the OHSA has also emphasised that there is no real cause for alarm.
However, the OHSA has underlined the legal duty of employers to carry out a risk assessment and to inform the employees of its findings. Moreover, the OHSA has emphasised that employers are obliged to train the workers as appropriate and to consult them in the measures that need to be taken.
The government, meanwhile, took harsh steps Monday night, when it announced that visas will no longer be issued for travellers arriving from Sars-hit countries. The measure will remain in force for an indefinite period and will be reviewed from time to time.
The decision comes quick on the heels of a notice from the Department of Health, released earlier on Monday, which recommended the public to avoid non-essential travel to mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Toronto, Hanoi and Singapore. The Health Department also recommended that all organisations from both the public and private sectors to avoid bringing over persons who reside or have recently been to any of the areas mentioned.
It adds that, in the event that any such person arrives into Malta, such organisations are to ensure that such persons are not allowed to their work place, university, school or conference meeting before 10 days have elapsed from their departure from any of the above affected areas.
In the world’s worst affected region, yesterday Southeast Asian leaders held an emergency summit to win back international trust after weeks of cover-up accusations and amid economic worries.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao cautioned the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations that SARS is going to be a long-term problem for his country. The disease has sickened more than 5,300 people, mostly in Asia, and after Singapore reported a new death Tuesday the number killed rose to at least 355.
"There is a need for us to recognise the fact that the SARS epidemic is going to be a long-term, a complex and a relapsing epidemic," Wen said.
He added that China just needed time to control the illness and acknowledged that his government did not adequately address it initially.
Yesterday China reported nine more deaths and 200 new infections, bringing its SARS death toll to 148. The World Health Organisation says SARS probably has peaked in many places, but it fears the situation is worsening in China.
At the end of the summit, Asian leaders announced wide-ranging steps to control the spread of SARS. A joint declaration by China, Hong Kong and 10 Southeast Asian countries said they would take "rigorous measures" concerning immigration and customs controls, including pre-departure and arrival screening of travellers and better flight management.
The countries agreed to set up a regional information network to help stop the spread of SARS and said their countries would co-operate on researching the disease.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, 2 Cali House, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | E-mail