The Chinese mainland said on Friday that it was stepping up its efforts to help Taiwan fight SARS by donating medical aid and sending a health-care team to the island.
The Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits has written to its Taiwanese counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation, to express the mainland's deep concern at the island's worsening epidemic situation.
The association said it hoped a joint campaign could be set up across the Taiwan Straits to bring the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak under control quickly.
It said that it has been entrusted by a "great number'' of mainland organizations and compatriots to donate medical materials to hospitals in the hard-hit cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung.
The first batch of donations include 200,000 protective suits, 100,000 surgical masks and five negative-pressure ambulances that can effectively prevent SARS infection. The pressure of the air inside the ambulances is lower than that outside, so that air is sucked inside when a door is opened, thus preventing the virus from escaping.
The association wrote that it will do its best to provide the island with any materials that are urgently needed.
It also expressed its hope that the Taiwan foundation can help arrange for a mainland medical team to visit the island and help it fight SARS.
Prestigious experts and frontline health-care workers on a medical team could share their clinical experience with their Taiwan counterparts and jointly work out preventive and treatment measures, the association said in its letter.
The mainland's offer to help came amid a disturbing increase in the number of SARS cases on the island. There were 538 confirmed cases by 7:30 am on Friday, including 60 deaths.
Medical resources have fallen into short supply on the island, which the World Heath Organization said has been suffering from the fastest spread of SARS worldwide.
Some mainland coastal cities, including Fuzhou and Xiamen in east China's Fujian Province, have already donated medical materials to the island.
The China Red Cross on the mainland previously offered to provide the island with medical aid but its Taiwan counterpart refused the offer.
Since the disease broke out, health-care groups on the mainland have regularly offered their Taiwan counterparts information on the epidemic and on their experiences in preventing and treating SARS.
Non-governmental health-care organizations on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are planning a series of videoconferences for next week on how to fight SARS.
The problem of controlling infection in hospitals is being addressed as a top priority in Taiwan, according to the WHO.
The organization is sending an additional two members of staff from its headquarters in the Swiss city of Geneva to Taiwan this weekend.