Source Pravda.Ru

Australia: False Anthrax Alerts

The Prime Minister reassured the public yesterday after a spate of anthrax scares disrupted offices around Australia. The incidents have spurred health authorities to step up efforts for the testing of suspected anthrax cases and to update medical information available to GPs. Australia Post is also reviewing safety measures including providing security clothing to sorters. The Federal Government last night advised businesses concerned about bioterrorism to isolate mailrooms from their other operations. The Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, said most of yesterday's "security incidents" had proved to be false alarms. But in other cases, "precautionary measures have been taken and investigations are still proceeding". John Howard said: "There is no reason for the Australian people to be concerned... That doesn't mean that we can afford to be complacent." Mr Howard was briefed on developments yesterday by the head of Canberra's anti-terrorism headquarters, the Protective Security Co-ordination Centre, Ed Tyrie, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. "There will always be a need, and a particular need in present circumstances, for people to take great care," Mr Howard said. Anthrax hoaxes forced evacuations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Townsville. The Premier, Bob Carr, will join state and federal leaders in an appeal to the community for calm amid increasing fears that the anthrax threat gripping America will spread to Australia. The State Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Services, Bob Debus, said yesterday the Premier would soon outline what measures are in place to deal with possible threats. Both Mr Debus and Mr Williams, whose portfolio covers national security intelligence, reiterated yesterday that emergency services and military units were prepared to deal with such a biological threat. The Commonwealth's acting chief medical officer, Professor John Mathews, said enough tests were already available in Australia to check suspected anthrax cases. But health authorities were looking at ways of speeding up tests. Australia Post officials met union representatives in Melbourne yesterday to discuss concerns about possible hazardous material being sent through the post. A spokesman said that as well as measures such as increased security at sorting centres, Australia Post had agreed to examine the possible issuing of protective clothing to staff.

Henry L. Marconi PRAVDA.Ru Sydney

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