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Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Universal Studios gets a clean bill of health


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Universal Studios Japan announced Monday that the central government has given the park a clean bill of health after weekend revelations that a Taiwanese guest developed SARS days after his visit.

The unidentified Taiwanese doctor developed a fever on the evening of May 9, after spending the day at the theme park. He continued his sightseeing tour of western Japan and returned to Taiwan on May 13.

"The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has deemed the park to be safe," said Johta Takahashi, a spokesman for the park. "As of Monday, the ministry does not see any reason to take any special precautionary measures."

Takahashi said that the park had received a number of phone calls over the weekend from concerned visitors and others about SARS, and that anyone who called was being reassured that the central government had judged the park to be safe.

Hotels in the city also say that they are currently taking few measures beyond the ones advocated by the World Health Organization. Eiko Niwa, a spokeswoman for the Osaka Hilton, said that customers were being asked to list where they were before they came to Osaka, a policy that other hotels are also following.

On Sunday, Kansai International Airport announced it was going to start questioning visitors from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan to see if they had come into contact with anyone suffering, or suspected of suffering, from SARS.

A spokeswoman for the Ritz Carlton in Osaka said it was the hotel's policy to treat guests who were allowed to pass through quarantine at the Kansai airport as safe, and that no special measures were needed once they arrived at the hotel.

But the case of the Taiwanese doctor has left many in Osaka and elsewhere worried.

In response, areas visited by the doctor have set up SARS hotlines for those seeking more information. While primarily in Japanese, officials said that there were staff on hand to answer questions in English, but not in Chinese. Similar hotlines in Kyoto and Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, said information was available only in Japanese.

Those in the Osaka area with questions or concerns about SARS can call (06) 6944-1142. Those in Kyoto can call (075) 414-4726 for more information; in Himeji the number is (0792) 89-1635. The Osaka hotline is open 24 hours.



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The Japan Times

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