updated 12/22/2003 11:06:43 AM ET 2003-12-22T16:06:43

Taiwan’s health authorities said Saturday they would release 12 more people from home quarantine, saying they have shown no symptoms of SARS since coming in contact with a medical researcher infected with the potentially deadly virus.

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Meanwhile, doctors said the researcher, identified only as Lt. Col. Chan, was in stable condition Saturday.

A total of 34 people who had contact with Chan had been placed in home quarantine while doctors checked for SARS symptoms such as fever. Twenty were released Friday while 12 others will be freed at midnight Saturday (11 a.m. EST), Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control said.

The two remaining under observation — Chan’s wife and father — could be released on Dec. 25, the agency said.

Most of those quarantined were passengers on a Dec. 10 airline flight from Singapore to Taiwan along with Chan.

Trash bag source of infection
Chan, 44, first felt unwell the evening after his return from a conference in Singapore, but it wasn’t until Dec. 17 that he was diagnosed with SARS.

He was in stable condition Saturday, but there were still some worrying signs, doctors said.

"Our chest X-rays show the situation on his right lung growing worse, but improving on his left lung," Chu said.

A preliminary report issued Friday said Chan might have become exposed to the virus Dec. 6 while carelessly disinfecting trash. One day later, he flew to Singapore for a conference.

On Friday, Singapore lifted home quarantine orders against 75 people who had contact with Chan.

Taiwan’s CDC said it may soon lift an islandwide SARS alert imposed after Chan was diagnosed with SARS if no other cases arise.

"If there are no special circumstances, we can end the SARS alert by the end of this month, Dec. 31," CDC spokesman Shih Wen-yi said.

Under the alert, hospitals and retirement homes must notify the government about patients with high fevers. Domestic air and train passengers are required to have their temperatures checked, and international air travelers must fill out a health form.

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