The agreement on Border Demarcation Reconnaissance was made at a Monday meeting of the Tactical Coordination Working Group in Atambua, West Timor. Dates for the survey are expected to be finalized within a few days. The working group, which includes representatives from UNTAET’s Peacekeeping Force (PKF) and Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI), also discussed the establishment of a new Border Control Service post and ways to improve the repatriation of East Timorese refugees currently living in camps across the border. In December, UN and Indonesian delegations had agreed at a special technical meeting on border demarcation in Jakarta that a reconnaissance of the border should be undertaken in February. The reconnaissance survey will study the riverbanks, river islands, customary usage and technical issues, followed by a number of technical steps prior to the resolution of the location of the borderline. Meanwhile, East Timor’s Constituent Assembly today pushed to 16 March the final vote and signing ceremony for the territory’s first constitution. After an hour-long debate on how much time was needed for a nationwide public review of the draft constitution, members voted overwhelming for the one-week delay – 62 in favour, 2 against, 4 abstentions, with 20 absent. An initial proposal for a two-week delay was rejected by majority party FRETILIN over concerns that it would interfere with the 15 March to 12 April presidential election campaign. Minority parties UDT and PSD argued that more time was needed for the public review process.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said concern mounted this weekend about a possible outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the large housing estate of 10 35-storey blocks, which has some 15,000 residents. Of the 45 new SARS cases hospitalized on Saturday, 28 were all residents of the estate. The next day, 36 of the 60 new patients admitted with probable SARS were also from the same residential complex.The health agency said most of those affected were in vertically arranged apartments in a single block, suggesting that SARS in Hong Kong may be spreading according to a different pattern – still involving close person-to-person contact with bodily secretions. Epidemiologists are considering the possibility that these secretions containing the causative virus might somehow enter common systems linking rooms or flats.A total 213 residents of Amoy Garden in Kowloon District have been admitted into hospital with suspected SARS, according to the Hong Kong Department of Health. Of these, 107 patients resided in Block E, which is now under isolation and residents have been instructed to remain in their flats until midnight on 9 April.Hong Kong health officials said they have taken environmental samples from Block E and investigations are under way to determine a possible explanation for this apparent vertical spread. The results will also help determine the source of infection in and the mechanisms by which the pathogen has spread.Local epidemiologists have identified a possible “index” case in the Amoy Garden outbreak: a man, now hospitalized in Prince of Wales Hospital, who visited his brother in Block E several times.As of today, a total of 1,800 cases in 17 countries resulting in 62 deaths have been reported.